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First Salt Lake City teachers line up for COVID-19 vaccine

Posted at 9:11 PM, Jan 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-15 17:55:27-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The whiteboards in West High classrooms are clean and bare, with not even the faintest dry erase marks to be found. Empty desks face the whiteboards, grouped close together. It's clear it's been months since anyone's sat at the desks, let alone written on the whiteboards at the front of the classrooms.

But on the high school's second floor Thursday, a line of people spaced several feet apart stood patiently down the length of the entire hallway, some chatting through their masks. The line spilled outside, down the walkway, and around onto the sidewalk.

At the front of the line inside, a woman directed people into the gymnasium at a steady rate. In the gym, several tables were set up, each staffed with a nurse.

They would each wave someone over to sit down and begin the process.

It's been the better part of a year since this many people filled the high school, and with this much life.

"I got to hurry and get in there, before it fills up!" said Steve Langman, about his reaction when he got the email to sign up to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

He was among the first group of teachers Thursday to get the vaccine in the entire Salt Lake City School District.

As the only school district in Utah to stay completely online this school year, teachers are now relying on the vaccine to open class back up.

Langman teaches computer and business marketing classes at Horizonte Instruction and Training Center.

"I've had anxiety and fear about it not coming," he said, referring to the vaccine. "We'd hoped for it a couple of weeks ago."

Vaccine delays created uncertainty in the education community, particularly for Salt Lake City.

Read: Teacher COVID-19 vaccine rollouts delayed for some Utah school districts

Not only was in-person class riding on the rollout, so was a state-wide teacher bonus.

Read: House speaker says SLC schools need to be in class by Feb. 8 to get COVID-19 bonuses

On Thursday, the day finally arrived for about 25 percent of the Salt Lake City School District staff.

Langman sat down at one of the tables in the gym and held his phone up for a selfie, as the nurse wiped his arm in preparation for the shot.

"Hold on, let's see if I can get that pic in there," he said, positioning his phone.

Langman said online learning's been a challenge and not just for his students, but for himself as well.

"I'm at my best in the classroom with the kids," he said. "I miss it, I miss the energy."

He wanted to mark the occasion with a photo to send to the Horizonte principal.

The nurse drew the vaccine out of a vial and into the syringe.

"Alright... owww," he said, as the needle poked into his arm. "You're done," the nurse said, pulling the needle back out.

"I'm cured!" Langman joked.

"Did you feel it?" the nurse asked.

"Yes I felt it, you stuck a needle in my arm!" he replied, with a laugh. "Although, you are pretty good I got to give you that."

Langman was one of 800 school district employees to get the first round of the Moderna vaccine. The Salt Lake City School District said they received 800 doses this week. They'll find out each Monday how many doses are coming their way that week. If the numbers keep up, it could be as soon as four weeks for everyone to receive the first round.

Janis Farrell, a substitute teacher at Wasatch Elementary School, sat down at a table and told the nurse she doesn't like shots.

Farrell looked the other direction as the nurse stuck Farrell's arm with the needle. The needle came back out and the nurse grabbed a band-aid.

"Oh, that was so easy!" Farrell exclaimed, laughing. She wanted to know when she should come back for the second dose.

"Four weeks from today?" she asked.

"So, on a Thursday in four weeks," the nurse replied.

Farrell can hardly wait.

"I'm going to go home and call my kids and say, 'Your mother is-- partially-- vaccinated!' And they'll go, 'She's crazy.' But that's okay!" Farrell said. "I mean, I'm just thrilled."

In a trying, difficult year, Thursday was a good day for the hundreds of teachers who lined up.

One filled with hope-- and yes, a little pain. But above all, relief for what's ahead.

"I'm grateful to be able to get it," Langman said. "And yeah, I look forward to being back in the classroom again."