On the day the novel coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), North Royalton City Schools District Health Coordinator Carolyn Baetjer took time to address another virus that has taken a backseat in the wake of recent headlines – seasonal flu.
Contrary to what parents may be hearing in their social circles and local news reports, the number of students who have called off school due to illness has been milder than usual, Baetjer said March 11. Each school building in the district submits a weekly report to the Cuyahoga County Board of Health that includes the number of students who have stayed home due to illness and numbers haven’t shocked school officials. The highest daily percentage Baetjer saw regarding student absence in one building due to illness was eight percent. Typical numbers come in at four or five percent. Reports don’t list specific illness, only that a child was reported absent due to having an illness.
The school district has been on pace in keeping constituents abreast of important health reminders and procedures, like its emails regarding “When to Keep Your Child Home,” “Guidelines for Contagious Illnesses” and its “Health Services Update to Community” addressing coronavirus, among others outlining the closure of school until at least April 3.
“I personally work very closely with the Board of Health and everything we are doing is what they are recommending,” Baetjer said in regard to safety practices. “It’s been described as a fluid situation, but we are in close contact with on-going conversations. We’re getting updates all the time. I communicate with Superintendent Gurka on an on-going basis and I thought his email regarding illness was spot-on. Should the public health sector give us other requests or recommendations, they would be taken under advisement.”
To help keep germs away, Baetjer said she “can’t stress enough” how important handwashing is.
“That’s the biggest thing you can do,” she said.
Baetjer went on to reinforce basic health hygiene reminders such as not sharing utensils and water bottles, coughing/sneezing into elbows rather than hands, and keeping up with frequent cleaning of major touchpoints like light switches, door handles, phones and other devices.
And another vital component in the battle against illness: “If you or your child is ill, stay home,” Baetjer said. “We all have a hard time with that, but that really helps everybody.”
Editor’s Note: This article is based off an interview that was conducted before Gov. Mike DeWine ordered the shut-down of Ohio schools. Information regarding seasonal flu and other illness is still relevant; however, there have been updates relative to the coronavirus since the interview was conducted and the article written.
Parents and guardians can stay up-to-date with resource guides by visiting the school district’s “Health Services” page found at northroyaltonsd.org. Families can also visit the Ohio Department of Health for activity guides and other resources at https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/.

Contributing Writer