TECHNOLOGY: CLICK Back to School Starts at Different Times Around the Country, But Now's the Time to Maximize Children's Eye Health Messages By CLICK Staff Wednesday, August 21, 2019 12:00 AM NEW YORK—As of the second full week of August, millions of American schoolkids are heading back to school or have already started. And depending on where you live, that statement might produce a reaction of either “That sounds about right” or “That seems way too early!” Pew Research Center recently issued a report on the topic. The prize for the earliest start date among the 500-plus districts in Pew’s sample goes to Arizona’s Chandler Unified School District, which serves part of suburban Phoenix. The 44,000 or so students in Chandler Unified went back to school on July 23 (though they get the first of three two-week “intersession” breaks starting Sept. 30). At the other extreme are the Trenton, New Jersey public schools, whose nearly 14,000 students won’t go back to school until Sept. 9—the latest opening date in the sample. According to data from Pew Research Center, back-to-school dates in the U.S., it turns out, vary considerably by state and region, based on Pew’s analysis of a sampling of the nation’s 13,000-plus public school districts. By the end of the second full week of August, for example, nearly all elementary and secondary school students in the East South Central region—a Census Bureau division that includes Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee—will be back in school. But not a single district in the nine New England and Middle Atlantic states will resume classes before Aug. 26, and many wait until after Labor Day. Whatever the timetable is for your local schools, it's prime time now to amplify messages about children's vision and eye health. According to Think About Your Eyes, nearly half of parents with children under the age of six have never taken their kids to an eye doctor, and 60 percent of parents don’t think an eye exam is an essential part of a child’s checkup schedule. Now that the school year is rolling back around, ECPs can do their own messaging and also share the resources provided by other organizations who are working tirelessly to correct these dangerous misconceptions. With Prevent Blindness and the National Optometric Association joining forces to name August Children's Eye Health and Safety Month and other initiatives around the country, this is the perfect time to get the message out about children’s eye health. Many information resources for children and parents are on the Prevent Blindness website. This year, for example, Think About Your Eyes is offering a virtual reality classroom demonstration that shows what school could be like for a child with uncorrected vision, as well as an information pack on how children's vision affects their learning while at school. Also this year, as CLICK reported recently, Think About Your Eyes has partnered with The Daily Bumps, the very popular and widely-followed family with a YouTube channel tracking their adventures and a road trip with Airstream across the country, sending messages about eyecare awareness and sharing their sights along the way. Essilor of America and Marsai Martin, the 14-year-old actress best known for her role on “Black-ish” and the youngest executive producer in Hollywood, teamed up for the back to school season, too. Together, Martin and Essilor are campaigning for children to receive total vision care as they head back to school, as well as introducing the Essilor 20/20 Vision Pledge which calls on parents to “put their child’s vision first and empower them this school year by taking them to the right doctor for their vision needs,” according to Essilor. Those who take the pledge are eligible to win both a comprehensive eye exam and glasses for their child, as well as glasses for the child’s entire K-12 school from the Essilor Vision Foundation. Martin's own struggles with uncorrected vision are part of the campaign and her success story shows parents just how far good vision care can help their children achieve. Children’s eye health education also extends beyond the classroom: for VSP, the back to school season means a partnership with the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, which helps provide student-athletes in need with access to eyecare. Many ECPs and national retailers are getting involved, like Dr. Nathan Bonilla-Warford, of Bright Eyes Vision, Tampa, Fla. who focuses on children's vision issues and appeared on his local news station to discuss the importance of children's vision care year-round. And many independent ECPs have started to emphasize their own promotions and educational events for this important season.