Moffat County School District in the process of gauging student health |

Moffat County School District in the process of gauging student health

Ben McCanna

Terri Jourgensen, a Moffat County School District registered nurse, tests the hearing of Craig Middle School sixth-grader Alissa Flannery on Thursday at CMS as part of district-wide health screenings, which are conducted yearly.

On Wednesday morning, Craig Middle School seventh-grader Morgan Lawton echoed the sentiments of many of her classmates.

Health screenings, she said, are "boring."

Nonetheless, the in-school screenings are an annual occurrence within the Moffat County School District and a step to ensure student wellness, district officials said.

At the beginning of every school year since 1981, each school within the district has hosted two-day health screenings.

About 2,000 students within the district— preschoolers through high school freshmen — will be screened for vision and hearing problems. Students are also weighed and measured at the events.

The screenings, which began this month, continue into October.

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On Wednesday, health technicians from throughout the school district converged at the CMS gymnasium to handle long lines of students at five different screening stations.

Terri Jourgensen, a school district registered nurse, was on hand to oversee the CMS health screening.

"It's basically to identify problems and get the kids in to see who they need to see," Jourgensen said.

She said any student whose screening results were concerning would go through a second screening to confirm whether they might have an issue that needs addressed.

"Maybe those students don't have trouble with their distance vision, but they were distracted or there were too many things going on during the test," Jourgensen said. "So we pull them in to do a one-on-one screening. And then after that, we make a referral to the eye doctor or to the audiologist."

Students with hearing problems are referred to a district-contracted audiologist, she said.

The audiologist, Jourgensen said, "will do a full evaluation on (students) at school, and there's no charge to parents."

With vision referrals, Jourgensen begins by determining whether parents have insurance. If they don't have insurance, Jougensen will direct parents to a voucher program or to the Craig Lions Club for assistance.

The Lions Club plays another role in the school district's health screenings, Lions Club president Al Shepherd said. Lions Club members attend eye screenings for the district's preschoolers and kindergartners.

Shepherd said many children younger than 6 don't know the letters of the alphabet, so it's difficult for optometrists to screen those students using conventional eye charts.

To get around this, Shepherd said the Lions Club uses special cameras.

"We've got cameras that take a picture of just the eyes," Shepherd said. "The flash that comes off the retina and through the lens will indicate that maybe this child has a problem."

Shepherd estimates that 10 percent of children screened need vision correction.

His estimate is close to statewide averages for all school grades, said Kathy Patrick, a school nurse consultant with the Colorado Department of Education.

Patrick said Colorado schools, which are required to provide the screenings, find vision problems in about eight percent of students every year. The percentage of students with hearing problems is less than that, Patrick said.

Jourgensen estimates that 15 to 20 percent of school students receive vision referrals, and 3 percent receive referrals for hearing.

She said one possible reason the school district's percentages exceed the statewide average is because her testing program is more extensive than the state's mandated standards.

"What's really nice about our program is that we do so much more," Jourgensen said. "We're doing convergence, and tracking near vision and far vision. Lots of school districts do just distance vision."

Riley O'Leary, a CMS seventh-grader, said the annual screenings have helped him.

Riley, who wears glasses, said his vision problems were identified during a screening when he was in second grade.

O'Leary said his schoolwork improved immediately once he began wearing glasses.

"Before (the screening), it was hard to see the white board," he said. "It was hard to pay attention and figure stuff out. I would often have to ask questions and stuff. But, with the glasses, I don't have to ask questions because I can see the white board."

Paige Durbin, also a CMS seventh-grader, learned Wed-

nesday that she might need vision correction for her right eye.

"I failed the test," Durbin said.

Durbin said she had already made up her mind on the question of glasses versus contacts.

"Contacts," Durbin said. "I'll get the colored ones, too."


Upcoming health screenings in the Moffat County School District:

• Sept. 29 and 30 — Sandrock Elementary School

• Oct. 6 and 7 — Ridgeview Elementary School

• Oct. 11 and 12 — Moffat County Early Childhood Center

• Oct. 25 and 26 — Sunset Elementary School

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