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)

Getting Home Poses Problem for Students

Special to the Sentinel

Four of the five foreign exchange students in Sitka stayed in town after the end of the school year May 22.

The four, Nicoline Huse Christensen of Denmark, Kanish Djaker of India, Cleomara Sande of Mozambique and Mihaela Motca of Romania, are still waiting to return home. 

AFS exchange student Issa Al Bawwab returned home to Jordan earlier this month, departing from the U.S. on a repatriation flight arranged by the Jordanian embassy.

Sitka AFS director Connie Kreiss told the Sentinel that exchange students usually leave in early June, indicating that the remaining four have not stayed longer than usual. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated travel plans.

These complications mean that they can expect little advance notice of when they must be on the plane for their flight home.

AFS exchange student Cleomara Sande attempted to fly home April 3 but was sent back to Sitka after spending four nights in Washington, D.C. She had two days’ notice, Kreiss said.

“(Cleomara) got as far as Washington, D.C., and then it was clear that the plane on (to South Africa) was likely to be canceled,” she said.

Kreiss said Sande stayed in an airport hotel for four nights before it was decided she should fly back to Alaska. 

High school exchange students in programs at Sitka High and Mt. Edgecumbe High school got together for a portrait at Sitka High in February. Pictured are, front from left, Cleomara Sande, from Mozambique; Mihaela Motca, Romania; Shurui Wang, China; and Yuhan Zhang, China. Back row, from left, are Nicoline Huse Christiansen, Denmark; Kanish Djaker, India; and Issa AlBawwab, Jordan.  (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)


Despite the uncertainty of travel, Sande said, she had been happy to be on the way home.

“I’m excited to go home,” she said. “When I was in D.C. I was already ready to go home because of all the energy with my friends. I’m ready to go home when they decide to send me home.”

Rotary exchange student Nicoline Huse Christensen, on the other hand, had been looking forward to spending another month in Sitka. She had planned to leave for home on July 11.

Instead she was told in late May that she had to leave Sitka by June 6. She is now scheduled to depart Thursday, June 4.

“The Rotary district here said that they weren’t going to send us home because it was safe here in Alaska and because it wasn’t safe to send us home,” she said. “When Rotary decided that I needed to leave before June 6 it was a big shock.”

Huse Christensen had hoped to spend more of the summer in Sitka. She has been hiking and kayaking with her friends, and wanted to spend more time in the outdoors.

“There is so much I want to do before I go home,” she said. “I want to stay for Fourth of July and I want to be able to go camping and hiking and just hang out with my friends without having to worry about school.”

Like other local exchange students, Huse Christensen was disappointed when school was moved online in mid-March.

“I didn’t (just) come here to go to school,” she said. “I came here to make relationships and to be a part of the American culture.”

Mihaela Motca, an AFS exchangee, also said the online switch interfered with her plans for finishing out the school year.

“I thought I could say a proper goodbye to my teachers and classmates at Sitka High School, but because of the pandemic I can’t,” she said.

Despite the abrupt end to in-person classes, she said she’s felt safe here.

“I am really happy that I am in Sitka because it’s one of the safest places during this pandemic,” she said.

Nevertheless, she misses her family back home.

“Being far away from home and not having my family from Romania (made me worry) about them and made me think about their safety,” she told the Sentinel.

AFS exchange student Kanish Djaker also has been worried about the distance between Sitka and his home in India.

“I was in a really bad (mental) shape a month ago as a result of all the uncertainty,” he said. “I am feeling a little homesick and I miss my dog so much.”

He said he’s also concerned about his parents at this time.

“Keeping my parents from not panicking is a little hard right now,” he said.







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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.



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



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 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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