May 6, 2020, Letters to the Editor

Category: Letters to the Editor
Created on Wednesday, 06 May 2020 15:53
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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