SALT LAKE CITY — The Granite School District is looking at opening mass vaccination clinics in high schools, with the news that those 16 and older will be able to schedule a vaccine appointment beginning March 24.
The clinics could begin as soon as this spring.
Teens have been able to attend class in person all year four days a week. At schools like Hunter High School, you'll find students on campus well after the last bell rings.
Once school is out for the day, extra-curricular activities like sports and club meetings start right up for the rest of the evening.
Freshman Austin Harding stuck around for tennis practice Thursday evening. He's in tennis and in the student government.
Fellow freshman Emmaree Orlandini is also in student government and on the dance company. Her brother, Junior Jothan Orlandini, juggles both dance company and wrestling.
Senior Mariela Vega is in student government, plus she does cheer. She explained that school plays a huge role in her life outside of class.
It also does for sophomore Michael Geaudry, who does track in the spring and football in the fall.
Especially during the pandemic, school isn't just a place for learning.
It's a place to help fight COVID-19.
Athletes do Test to Play, where they find out every other week if they are clear of COVID-19.
And now, it's possible students will take another huge step in those hallways with vaccinations.
"I thought it would be cool if schools were to pitch in. But now that it actually might be a thing, it's sick," Jothan said.
Emmaree continued, "I heard about it a little bit, like not specifically Granite, but people were saying that high schools should be vaccination sites. Which I thought that made sense to me, because it's a big place and it's accessible to a lot of people."
Ben Horsley, spokesperson with the Granite School District, said they speak with the Salt Lake County Health Department weekly, and they're in conversation about potentially teaming up to create student vaccination clinics at high schools.
"The initial thought and process on that was, we would simply utilize the current Test to Play protocol," he said.
Right now, students come on Fridays during the distance learning day to test for COVID-19. They could open the vaccination clinics on Fridays as well.
The school being empty would give them room to carry out the clinic without disrupting class.
With demand for appointments expected to skyrocket beginning March 24, the school district could help provide another place for people to go.
"If you're talking about 16 or 17-year olds, you're talking about several thousand students within Granite School District, obviously more than that across the state," Horsley said.
They could roll out the clinics this spring, he explained, and the district would plan to offer clinics during the summer to help vaccinate as many students before school starts again in the fall.
Depending on how the rollout schedule plays out, Horsley said they would also offer the vaccine at the high school sites to those 12 and older as soon as the state approves it.
Horsley added that the clinics would be completely optional, and parents would need to sign off before any students under age 18 got vaccinated.
For the teens who call the school their home outside of home, it brings up all kinds of exciting thoughts.
Harding said he hopes that means no masks in the fall, with full capacity activities.
"Just to have that assurance and... not having to worry about it anymore would be great," he said.
Vega is a senior, so she doesn't have next fall to look forward to. But she does know she'll get a prom this year, and indicated she's excited to finish off her last few months of high school with a little bit of normalcy.
Beyond that, she'll just be excited for things to change outside of school.
"No more masks, you know, we can actually see people's faces," she said, with a smile under her mask.
Jothan said he wants to be more protected and Emmaree said even if she can't get it just yet, she knows it'll help them get back to normal.
"That was what I was most excited about, yeah. Being able to do more things like activities," she said.
Geaudry had similar thoughts.
"I just want to get back to normal, like without masks and see all my friends," he said.
Back to normal, in a place so important to a teen's life -- especially during COVID-19.