One by one, the kids lined up outside a portable classroom at Shady Hills Elementary School, where volunteers from the Sertoma Speech and Hearing Foundation were busy conducting annual hearing screenings.
Students such as Kristen Walters, 6, and Aden Koster, 6, took a seat, donned a pair of earphones and raised their hand when they heard the tone — all to be sure that they were hearing as they should.
This brief test is an important one, as early detection and intervention go a long way to helping minimize the effects of hearing loss on language development, academic performance and cognitive development.
Last year, the Sertoma foundation, in partnership with the Wachovia Foundation, performed 10,367 screenings on Pasco elementary and middle school students in 50 schools, identifying 469 in need of further testing from a school audiologist.
This year, the foundation and its volunteer staff is back at it and is to be at Pasco elementary and middle schools through Dec. 10, screening students in kindergarten, first and seventh grades as well as some in the Head Start pre-K program.
That's just fine with Sertoma volunteers and former Pasco school employees such as Gail Bliss and Carol Clayback, who last week were once again reveling in their time spent with schoolchildren at Shady Hills Elementary.
"We enjoy it — big time. It gets you back with the kids," said a smiling Bliss, who, before retiring, worked in the media center and with students in the gifted program at Cotee River Elementary.
"I spent 28 years in the classroom before I retired in 2002," said Clayback, a former Hudson Elementary first-grade teacher. "It felt like my right arm was cut off. Today I'm working with kids that are the same age."
The two will be busy during the upcoming weeks as they screen students throughout the county, Clayback said.
"We pick the schools (to volunteer at) according to our retirement schedule, which these days is lunch, lunch and lunch," she said.