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Athletic Director hoping COVID-19 vaccine will protect students beyond the classroom

Athletic Director Jesse Hernandez said he believes it's his responsibility to get the shot to help keep sports and other activities going.

WESTMINSTER, Colo. — As more and more teachers in Colorado get the COVID-19 vaccine, school leaders hope classes will be safer for students. 

But that isn't the only benefit. After-school activities will also be able to resume more safely under the protection of the vaccine.

On Friday, a drive-up vaccine site run by a group called COVID Check Colorado was set up outside Westminster High School.

 Athletic Director Jesse Hernandez said he saw it as a chance to keep more than just classrooms safe.

"As coaches, it's more of a responsibility to keep our kids safe, to keep each other safe, rather than just saying it's significant for sports," Hernandez said.

He said he wants to avoid another situation like what happened with the school's Girls Basketball team.

"We were 3 and 0 and we received a number one ranking and then we actually got quarantined for the last two weeks," Hernandez said.

RELATED: New vaccine phases announced, 60+ eligible March 5

One player on the team tested positive for COVID-19, almost ending the season for players like Brianna McCleave.

"I graduate in like three months and the fact that I almost thought basketball was gone, it broke my heart," McCleave said.

She said basketball is part of what makes her complete.

"It's like a way to break out of your shell and it's a stress reliever," McCleave said.

Hernandez said sports and other activities can be an escape for students.

"Some of them may not want to go home all the time and being here a couple hours with their coaches and with their teammates and friends being able to spend that social time together has helped them tremendously," Hernandez said.

So, with every teacher and coach that takes their chance to get a vaccine, Hernandez said it allows students to take their shot at extracurricular opportunities.

RELATED: State urges schools to eliminate extracurricular activities as COVID-19 cases rise

"In my position in what I do, I think it's the right thing and it's time do it," Hernandez said. "I feel like I have an obligation and a responsibility -- to the community and to the kids here at the school, the teachers who are here every day working with kids -- to do my part."

The Girls Basketball team resumes playing Friday night. Hernandez said they've missed six games and will have to scramble to play enough games to have a chance at the playoffs.

McCleave said she wants her chance for something normal during her senior year.

"Everyone getting the vaccine just insures that COVID won't affect people as bad," McCleave said. "Then, we can stay healthy in the gym as well. We can keep playing and everyone can still have that high school experience in sports."

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