The flu is behaving badly.

By Carol Stiffler

When Brenna Pavey got to the January 29 home basketball game against Munising, she quickly heard some bad news: the entire cheerleading squad was out sick. It was going to be a quiet game unless someone stepped up.

So she did – literally. Pavey, a junior at Newberry High School, didn’t let much of the varsity game slip by before she stood in front of the bleachers and led the student section in support of the team. With friends Katie Sue Rahilly and Lola Depew, who remained seated, Pavey made sure the boys on the court felt support from the stands.

“We’ve memorized some from listening to the cheerleaders over the years, so I did what I could remember,” Pavey said.

The boys lost the game 32-53, but it probably wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

That wouldn’t be the last time that cold and flu season crippled their sports schedule. The next game, a January 31 road game against St. Ignace, was canceled due to illness. This time, it was St. Ignace who was suffering. That game has yet to be rescheduled.

Schools in the Eastern Upper Peninsula are struggling mightily against the flu. Here in Newberry, so many staff members are sick that school days are touch-and-go and are handled one day at a time.

“We barely scraped by today,” said Superintendent Stacy Price on Monday, Feb. 3. “We had a significant amount of staff out, with no subs.”

Whether there would be school on Tuesday, Feb. 4 was anyone’s guess – Price had just received word that the custodian had completed a dozen vomit pick-ups on Monday.

“I would hope that we are through the thick of it,” Price said, “but now with today’s developments with people being sick everywhere, I’m not sure.”

In Brimley, the sickness was so strong that school was outright canceled on Friday, January 31. Pickford schools closed, too, and were still closed as of Monday, February 3. In Rudyard, 147 students were out sick on Tuesday, Jan. 28, and another 35 came down sick while at school that day. The district canceled school on January 29, 30, and 31.

Oddly, the smaller school districts in the region are nearly unscathed. At Engadine, Superintendent Josh Reed said school attendance was at 96% on Monday, February 3.

“We’ve had a couple confirmed cases here and there, and that’s what we’ve been dealing with so far,” Reed said. “It’s been here or there. Mostly it’s been in our elementary school. Nothing rampant as of yet.”

Burt Township Schools in Grand Marais have received no confirmed reports of students out with the flu. And at Whitefish Township Schools in Paradise, there are just a couple.

At Three Lakes Academy in Curtis, the flu cycled through with more determination.

“I think we peaked at 20 students being out one day last week, and now we are moving back toward the teens and the tens,” said Superintendent and Principal Rachel Bommarito.

Three Lakes Academy sent home a message to parents to keep their children home until they’ve been fever-free without the help of medicine for 24 hours. That request was largely heeded.

The staff is still struggling with the flu, though, and Bommarito said it is hard to keep the classes covered. She spent part of Monday, Feb. 3 substituting in the fourth grade class for a teacher who was mostly better, but had had a fever the day before.

“I know we’re on the ups,” she said. “We’re doing a lot better.”

It might be about to let up – the CDC reports that flu season usually peaks between December and February.