PASSING THROUGH – Orca whales swim near the Indian River estuary Thursday night. A pod of more than a half-dozen adult and juvenile orcas spent the late afternoon in Sitka Sound near shore as people along Sawmill Creek Road photographed and video recorded them. NOAA Fisheries recommends staying at least 100 yards away while viewing whales from boats. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

May 6, 2020, Letters to the Editor

S.E. Mask Makers

Dear Editor: I would like to extend my gratitude to the many volunteers that helped Southeast Alaska Mask Makers get Sitka and other communities “covered.” Haines, Juneau, Sitka, Wrangell and Petersburg participated in this solely volunteer effort. We made and distributed a total of 6,265 cloth masks throughout Southeast Alaska. Sitka’s count was 1,697. Bravo, everyone. We were very fortunate to have Lauren Allen take on the administration duties for Sitka.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank everyone who helped make this vision a success.

Sheri Loomis, Founder,

Southeast Alaska Mask Makers


Teacher Appreciation

Dear Editor: Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! This year the teachers and staff in the Sitka School District have gone above and beyond their typical level of excellence, as we retooled in order to offer remote learning opportunities in response to COVID-19. We wanted to publicly thank our teachers and staff for their creativity and determination to connect with students and inspire learning through innovative avenues. 

The stay home orders allowed us to partner with families in new and meaningful ways, and we look forward to building on these connections into the future. There are far too many highlights to list all of them here; however, we wanted to share a few from each of our schools so the public can get a glimpse of the high quality and professionalism of our teachers and staff. 

Wooch.een Head Start Preschool

Wooch.een staff from SSD, Sitka Tribe, and Tlingit & Haida Head Start have created wonderful videos to connect kids to familiar faces, voices, routines, and stories. The culturally rich environment of Wooch.een Preschool is alive and well, thanks to our exceptional staff!

Baranof Elementary School

To the entire staff at Baranof Elementary – thank you for all you are doing to make an unbearable situation bearable! Teachers, you are doing an amazing job connecting with our precious students every day to provide a variety of learning opportunities. Specialists, you are keeping our kids active and engaged with recess, PE, Drums Alive, music and social emotional lessons with Kelso. Thank you for supporting our students, our families, and each other! You ROCK!

Keet Gooshi Heen 

Elementary School

The Keet Gooshi Heen staff have gone above and beyond in their efforts to provide quality remote learning for their students. Their efforts to stay connected to students and families is evident in the “live” meetings I have attended. During those meetings, I see students connecting with peers, engaged in learning, and teachers delivering quality instruction despite a host of challenges. I am in deep appreciation of our staff, students, and families for their perseverance to continue to learn and stay connected from a distance. We miss seeing our students face to face and look forward to doing so in the future!

Blatchley Middle School

BMS staff has done a simply incredible job of contacting each student and family, posting assignments, hosting live office hours and reaching out whenever needed. Their commitment to the students of BMS is very evident and their dedication has made online learning as smooth as possible under the circumstances! Like many of us, they cannot wait until we return to “normal” and can see our students and colleagues face to face. 

Sitka High School

The faculty and staff at Sitka High School have gone above and beyond the call of duty to maintain connections with our students and continue to deliver quality instruction during this time of remote learning. Teachers have learned new strategies and delivery systems that will serve us well in the future when school has returned to a more normal pattern and our students are traveling for athletics and activities. While we miss our Sitka Wolves every day, teachers are striving to make sure our students have the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve success and security in a complex world.

Pacific High School

The teachers at Pacific High School, including our long-term sub, have done a tremendous job connecting to students, troubleshooting technology with families, converting their project-based curricula into engaging online lessons for students, and working as a team to provide social emotional supports to our students. This has been no small task! PHS is fortunate to have such a strong staff working collaboratively with students and families to help them maneuver this new reality we are all living in. Thank you, Pacific High teachers and staff, for your hard work and dedication. 

In deep appreciation to and celebration of our teachers and staff!

School-Based and District-Wide Administrative Team

of the Sitka School District



Hunger and COVID-19

Dear Editor: Hunger and COVID-19: Increasing SNAP benefits.

COVID-19 is quickly adding hunger to its list of health risks. With more than 30 million Americans unemployed, people are being forced to choose between rent and groceries. Meanwhile, food banks throughout the country are overwhelmed, and missed school meals are threatening the nutritional health of our children.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) is our nation’s first line of defense against hunger. And it is built for crises just like this. Back in 2008, SNAP not only kept food on the table for millions, it helped the economy recover (every $1 in new SNAP spending creates $1.50-1.80 in economic activity). It is ready to do so again, but Congress must act.

I urge our members of Congress to help hungry Americans by quickly passing legislation that increases the maximum SNAP benefit by 15 percent until this economic crisis ends.


Michele Friedman, Brenda Campen,

Kim Kirkness, Libby Stortz,

Kathy Kyle, Mike Litman,

Donna Donohoe, Mim McConnell,

Mary Soltis, Toby Campbell


Safe Stores

Dear  Editor: In 2019, Sitka won the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s  Culture of Health Prize. Seeing how Sitkans have creatively and compassionately responded to the pandemic, we believe that RWJF made a good choice. Thanks to everyone who is helping our community stay healthy and weather this storm.   

The Coalition is responsible for using the $25,000 Culture of Health Prize to improve wellness in Sitka. In February, Sitkans submitted over 350 ideas on how to invest this money wisely. We evaluated these ideas against a decision matrix and got down to a short list of initiatives. Our next step was to bring the top ideas back to the community for feedback and prioritization, but when the pandemic struck, we realized that we needed to adjust our plans.

We look forward to continuing with a public process to decide how to use the bulk of the prize money when we have a better sense of our community’s long-term needs. In the meantime, we have dedicated $5,000 to a local pandemic response fund to meet short- and  mid-term community needs.

Our first project was to partner with SEARHC  to put together 50 care kits for people that test positive for COVID19. Best case scenario, these kits will not be needed and the resources will be redirected, but if positive cases do occur here, we hope that the resource list, thermometer, masks, care items, cleaning supplies, and a grocery gift card from Sitka Mutual Aid will bring folks comfort and help them to safely quarantine at home.

Our current undertaking is the Safe Stores, Shoppers and Workers Initiative. With a generous $5,000 grant from the Sitka Legacy Foundation and in partnership with the Sitka Chamber of Commerce and the State of Alaska Division of Public Health Nursing, we are working to provide customized support to local businesses on a voluntary basis to help prevent the spread of COVID19 and provide a safe environment for workers and customers alike. We invite folks to visit to complete a short survey that will inform this effort.

You can learn more about the Coalition at or by joining our monthly Wooch.een Health Networking Lunch, now held via Zoom. The next meeting is May 8 at noon. Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you would like to attend.

Thank you, Salamat, Gracias and Gunalcheesh,

Sitka Health Summit Coalition

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 7-31-20)

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 12:50 p.m. Friday.

New cases as of Thursday: 108

Total statewide – 2,990

Total (cumulative) deaths – 23

Active cases in Sitka – 15 (10 resident; 5 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 15 (11 resident; 4 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 133.

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

* These numbers reflect State of Alaska data. Local cases may not immediately appear on DHSS site, or are reported on patient’s town of residence rather than Sitka’s statistics. 



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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July 2000

Clinton Buckmaster shot and wounded a large brown bear Tuesday night when it charged him near his Thimbleberry Bay home in the 2100 block of Sawmill Creek Road. As of press time, the bear was still at large.

July 1970

The city council agreed at a special meeting Thursday to consider the request of Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp No. 1 for redevelopment planning funds for the Indian Village. Cost has been estimated at $12,000.