ALL IN THE SAME TACO BOAT – Sitkans, many wearing face masks, line up this afternoon at the Sitka Elks Lodge food booth. With the pandemic, most of this year’s Sitka Independence Day events have been modified, but not entirely canceled. The American Legion and Sizzling Chow Cuisine also will have outdoor food booths. While there’s no downtown parade, there is a parade of classic cars that will tour Sitka streets beginning at 1 p.m. at Whale Park. A sing-along and military salute will take place on Totem Square 7 p.m. Friday and a fireworks display will take place 11:30 Friday night over Sitka Channel, with spectators asked to follow social distancing recommendations. The Rotary Club is holding its annual Duck Race on the fourth. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Sitka Schools Deal with New Challenges

By GARLAND KENNEDY
Sentinel Staff Writer
    Alaskan schools will remain closed through May 1 out of concern for the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Dunleavy said in his eighth coronavirus Health Mandate Friday.
    “Public and private schools are closed to students through May 1, 2020. Students will receive instruction through distance delivery methods. All after-school activities will be suspended during this time,” the mandate reads.
    Previous announcements had already shuttered schools through March 30.
    School District Superintendent Mary Wegner told the Sentinel that school staff will use the current week to plan for distance learning.
    Wegner said a critical goal is “really partnering with families.”
    She said that a concrete distance learning should be in place and made public by Friday.
    “The biggest challenge in my mind is making sure we provide equity. Every student is going to have a different situation,” Wegner said over the phone.
    In addition, this morning was the start of the Sitka School District’s free “grab and go” breakfast and lunch program. Wegner said the program will continue as long as the schools are closed.
    “Students may pick up their meals at Sitka High School from 8 a.m. to noon,” the district website said. “All families with an economic need are encouraged to participate. All district students, and any additional youths under the age of 19 in the same household, can get meals. This includes children too young to be enrolled in school or who are enrolled in private school or another district, as long as an SSD student lives in the same household.”
    Anyone interested in and eligible for the meals program can sign up at tinyurl.com/SSDCovidNeeds, or by calling 907-747-8622.

TOP: AmeriCorps Volunteers and school meal program chef Jo Michalski watch cars arrive at Sitka High School this morning to pick up free lunch and breakfast bags. The Sitka School District is making the meals available to all students during the school closure. Students may pick up their meals 8 a.m.  to noon at Sitka High School. Pictured are, from left,  Lysette Kessler, Ashley Nessler, Michalski and Jamie Hovis. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

BOTTOM: AmeriCorps Volunteer Lysette Kessler holds up a thank-you note written by one of the students receiving bag meals. “Dear Makers, Thank You.”  (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

    Meals are served drive-up style, and the district has limited delivery capacity for those under quarantine or without transport.
    Wegner said that anyone under quarantine or with any health concerns should call the district office to arrange food delivery, rather than risking their health.
    The district also said the telecommunications companies GCI and ACS will provide free, entry-level internet plans through May 31, and also will upgrade pre-existing plans for free during the same period. Wegner added that the district is surveying families to find out who needs to check out a laptop to enable distance education.
    Across the bridge, Mt. Edgecumbe High has only three students remaining after the school’s nearly 400 students were ordered home, Superintendent Jannell Vanesse told the Sentinel. Those three have been unable to return home because poor weather grounded their flights.
    Vanesse emphasized that while the school buildings are shut, Mt. Edgecumbe plans to continue education.
    “We are continuing education…. We plan to contact kids in each class by Wednesday of this week. At last through email or by phone,” she said.
    But the Edgecumbe superintendent added that since many of her students have returned to their small villages, educational needs will vary.
    “We know there’s not going to be one size fits all. Our classes are going to be delivered in a variety of ways.”
    Vanesse said recent events shouldn’t prevent seniors from receiving their diplomas, but the prospects for a graduation ceremony remain uncertain.
    She said the effort of her staff, and the staffs of other boarding schools in Anchorage and Nome in the process of returning the students to their homes was tremendous.
    “I cannot be thankful enough for the people who helped us in the in-between,” she said. “It’s really humbling, the amount of support we have gotten.”
    Wegner hit a similar note.
    “I just would like to thank the community... and our staff, we have incredibly professional staff.”

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 7-2-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 11:15 a.m. Wednesday.

New cases as of Monday: 39

Total statewide – 1,017

Total (cumulative) deaths – 14

Active cases in Sitka – 8 (6 resident; 2 non-resident)

Recovered cases in Sitka – 10 (7 resident; 3 non-resident)

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 68.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

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Welcome to the Sitka Sentinel's web page. In order to make the Sentinel's news more easily available during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken down the paywall to access articles on this page. Just click on an article headline to read the story. 

March 23, 2020

NOTICE FROM THE PUBLISHERS

TO READERS AND ADVERTISERS

For the duration of the COVID-19 disaster emergency declared by federal, state and local authorities, the Sentinel is taking additional measures to reduce virus exposure to its employees and contractors as well as to the public, while continuing to publish a daily news report for Sitka.

To the extent possible, Sentinel news and sales staff will be working from home. For the protection of our carriers, home delivery of the newspaper will be stopped effective Tuesday, March 24.

The Sentinel will continue to publish on its website sitkasentinel.com. Access to the website will be free to all users. The Sentinel will also produce a print edition Monday through Friday. It will be available to all readers without charge, at locations throughout town.

Initially, these locations are those where the Sentinel's newspaper vending machines are already in place. The coin mechanisms will be disabled or the doors removed to permit easy access. The Sentinel will work with the stores where the paper is usually sold, to designate a place inside or outside the store where the free edition can be made available.  

Home delivery subscriptions are on hold, and after the end of the disaster emergency, subscriptions will be extended at no charge for the number of days that there was no home delivery.

The Sentinel will make its print edition available to the public as early in the day as possible. with all personnel taking precautions to prevent spread of the virus.

The Sentinel is calling upon its customers to observe the COVID-19 emergency precautions already in place, particularly in maintaining a six-foot social distance from others at newspaper distribution sites.

Following is the statement issued by the Sentinel on March 16, stating the Sentinel's emergency procedures, which remain in effect.

The Sentinel office at 112 Barracks Street is closed to the public. We encourage people to use the phone, email or the U.S. Postal Service as much as possible.There is a slot in the front door of the office for ads, news items and payment checks. Emails may be sent to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and the phone number is (907) 747-3219.                                                                          

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