The Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Head Start program, a division of the federal Head Start program, provides comprehensive services to 100 three- and four-year-old children who are living at or below the poverty level in Loudoun County. The purpose of the program, which includes preschool, is to promote social competence and enhance school readiness of low-income children.
During their time in Head Start, the children receive support for their cognitive, social and emotional development in a learning environment that supports growth in language and literacy, as well as math, science, art and physical skills. They also receive health, educational, nutritional, social and disabilities services, based on family needs and goals as well as their cultural and linguistic heritage.
In addition to teachers, LCPS Head Start has social workers and a nurse on staff to provide services to families. Staff promotes connections to community agencies to meet immediate needs and to empower families to continue to be self-sufficient after they are no longer involved with Head Start. LCPS Head Start has served more than 2,000 children and their families in Loudoun County over the past 24 years.
One of the services that LCPS Head Start provides has been providing since 2012 is vision screenings for the preschoolers in its program. They partner with local chapters of the Lions Club to assist them in performing vision screenings, using a Lions Club vision screener. The Lions Club also provides referrals and vouchers for eye glasses to Head Start students who need them.
“Last year, the vision screener revealed 20 percent of our students would benefit from a comprehensive eye exam,” Kris Caldwell, Head Start Health Nutrition Coordinator, wrote in her request. “Of those referred to an eye care professional, 95 percent were prescribed treatment, which was most often eye glasses.”
LCPS Head Start used its funding from 100WomenStrong to purchase a Welch Allyn Spot Vision Screener that will allow them to screen for indicators of more than six of the most common vision problems in children.
“Prior to attending Head Start, most of our students have not had a vision screening. Early screening can lead to prompt treatment, which can significantly impact a child’s health and academic achievement,” Caldwell explained.
“Owning our own vision screening equipment allows us to provide the consistency of using one type of screening equipment for all vision screenings throughout the school year, as well as constant availability of the equipment. We will continue our partnership with the Lions Club for initial vision screenings at the beginning of the school year, but owning our own equipment allows us to complete vision screenings during the remainder of the school year.”