WATCH: A Montreal elementary school library was converted into an optometrist’s office on Thursday. It’s part of a pilot project taking place at two Lester B. Pearson schools in Lachine taking place in April. As Global’s Olivia O’Malley reports, the goal is to ensure access to vision correction for those in need.

The Maple Grove Elementary school library has been converted into an optometrist’s office, as part of a pilot project to help make sure all children have access to vision correction.

“There are gaps in the system and we wish more children to reach optometrists and get their eyes checked to optimize their vision,” said Simon Robert, senior director at EssilorLuxottica.

Essilor Vision Foundation Canada and the Lester B. Pearson School Board are working together on the pilot project at two Lachine schools: Maple Grove Elementary from Wednesday to Friday, then down the street to Lakeside High School from April 25-29.

Essilor Vision Foundation Canada’s school screening program is at various schools across Canada, but this is the first time in Montreal.

Volunteers from the Lions Club Montreal West Island carry out the initial screening using standard tests including colour vision, distance vision and 2D vision.

“We’re not professionals. We try to highlight the students who might have gone under the radar,” said president Stewart Valin.

Valin said the club members were pleased to be involved with the project, due to the fact that vision is one of the Lions Club’s global causes.

“It’s very, actually very appealing and it’s very uplifting. The kids are great,” he added.

Grade 4 student Zakery Notargiovanni is one of the hundreds of kids volunteers greet on a daily basis.

“The volunteers who did the eye checks were very nice, very calm, and they really helped out,” said Notargiovanni.

In the coming weeks, an optometrist will visit the school to examine students with possible vision problems. Then, if needed, Essilor will provide glasses for free.

Maple Grove’s principal told Global News he is shocked by the number of children needing follow up.

“Of our 370-odd students, we’re going to have to get through about half of them with an optometrist for a full eye exam,” said Dean Graddon.

Robert said screening often and early is essential.

“Children needs to see an optometrist at least once a year as their eyes are developing. And if they don’t correct their vision, it means that they won’t perform as well in school,” he said.

If the program is 20/20, they hope to expand to more Montreal schools in the future.

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