SMILE! – The Pacific High School graduating class poses outside Harrigan Centennial Hall Saturday afternoon prior to their commencement ceremony. Because of COVID-19 concerns the ceremony was not open to the public. Pictured are Eric Alvarado,Chelsea Taylor, Madison Roy-Mercer, Lindsey Bartolaba, Melissa Gibson, Douglas Johnson, Korbin Tugmon, George Stevenson, Jayvan Iya-Kowchee and Elizabeth Newell. Sitka High School will hold its graduation ceremony Monday, May 24. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Splash! MEHS Students Enjoy Inaugural Dip

Sentinel Staff Writer
    The first student to jump into the Mt. Edgecumbe High School Aquatic Facility’s pool at its grand opening Friday received raucous applause that echoed off the water.
    He was quickly joined by a dozen other swimmers, all Mt. Edgecumbe seniors, who have been hearing about the project since their freshman year.
    Looking on were hundreds of younger students, members of the public, and the organizers of the $26.9 million state-funded facility.
    The sight had been a long time coming.

Visitors and Mt. Edgecumbe High School students cheer as the first student jumps into the pool during an open house for the new Mt. Edgecumbe High School Aquatic Facility Friday. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

    Sen. Bert Stedman, who has championed the project from its inception, grew emotional as he spoke at the ribbon cutting ceremony.
    “I’ve been looking forward to this day for eight years,” said Stedman, who sported an MEHS sweatshirt and hard hat. “There was a real rush from a lot of people the last month to make sure the seniors could get a little bit of exposure to the pool, and I do apologize for the pool being a little late, but sometimes late is better than never, and this is one of them.”
    The ceremony included comments from several other stakeholders, including former Alaska state Rep. Bill Thomas, former Alaska Sen. Albert Kookesh, MEHS academic principal Bernie Gurule, MEHS student president Erik Handeland, and MEHS superintendent Janelle Vanasse. There were performances by the MEHS Yupik dance group and student singers, and an invocation by father Ishmael Andrew of St. Michael’s Orthodox Cathedral.
    Gurule told those gathered that Friday’s opening represented the “beginning of a beautiful history” that promises to enrich the lives of MEHS students, as well as the broader Sitka community. There are plans to make the pool available for a fee to the U.S. Coast Guard, the Alaska State Trooper Public Safety Academy, swim clubs, and the general public.
    Gurule emphasized the value of such a resource for MEHS students who do not have opportunities to learn to swim in their home communities.
    “This is a great reason to celebrate,” he said.
    Handeland and Stedman cut the ceremonial red and gold ribbon, and MEHS’ Athabaskan dance group led the crowd through the open doors, into the facility.
    Only seniors had the chance to test the waters of the new pool Friday, but many younger students have already signed up for swimming lessons or recreational swim time for the next school year.
    Mt. Edgecumbe junior Stormy Simeon is one such student who plans on taking lessons.
    “I think it’s really cool,” she said. “I’m really excited.”
    Hayden Hunt, a freshman who said he may take swim lessons in the pool in the years to come, echoed Simeon’s sentiments.
    “I’m excited because I really like swimming,” he said.
    Sophomore Adeline Dyment told the Sentinel she’s looking forward to swimming as a supplement to her athletic pursuits.
    “I do cross country running, and my coach wants us to practice in the pool once a week,” she said.
    Sydnee Kimber, a senior and star wrestler, said that although she won’t have extensive opportunity to use the pool herself, she’s excited for the younger students who will.
    “I think it’s pretty awesome,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for next year’s students and the future.”
    Junior Cerena Ipalook-Reich expressed admiration for the pool’s appearance as she cycled out of the facility and back to class.
    “I think it’s beautiful, and I love how it gives off a warm type of feeling,” she said. “I can’t wait to swim there.”
    A trio of young members of the Baranof Barracuda Swim Club crowded by the water’s edge, watching the older swimmers paddle around the new pool. As one of the community user groups that stand to benefit from the new pool, the Barracudas expressed hope that the facility will allow them to host events too large for the Blatchley Middle School pool to accommodate.
    “Our pool only holds six lanes so that’s why we don’t hold a lot of meets; it’s so small,” said Riley Bernhardt, 10. “It will be nice if we get the chance to swim in here for meets.”
    There are still some finishing touches to be put into place -- a water slide to be installed, student art to be gathered for the facility walls, and operating funds to be secured -- but the fact still stands: on Friday, there were students swimming in the Mt. Edgecumbe High School Aquatic Facility pool.

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August 5, 2020

A Note To Our Readers

Reopening: Phase One:


On March 30, 2020, the Daily Sitka Sentinel began taking precautions against the coronavirus, which was starting to show up in Alaska.

We closed our building to the public and four key employees started working remotely. Home delivery was suspended to protect our carriers from exposure to the virus.

Four months later, the virus is still with us and the precautions remain in effect.

In appreciation for the willingness of our subscribers to pick up their daily paper at drop-off sites, the Sentinel was free to all readers, and subscriptions were extended without charge.

As of August 1 the Sentinel is once again charging for subscriptions, but the present method of having subscribers pick up their papers at designated sites will continue.

The expiration date of all subscriptions has been extended without charge for an additional four months.

We thank our readers for their support in these uncertain times, and especially those who paid for the paper despite the free offer.

We look forward to the time when we can safely resume home delivery.

To check on the expiration of your subscription or to make a payment please call 747-3219. The subscription email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We also will be mailing out reminder cards.

The single copy price is again 75 cents. The news racks do not require coins to open, but we ask that the 75 cents for a non-subscription single copy sale be paid with coins in the slot.

– The Sitka Sentinel Staff


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Alaska COVID-19 
At a Glance

(updated 5-17-21)

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 12:45 p.m. Monday.

New cases as of Sunday: 50

Total statewide – 66,814

Total (cumulative) deaths – 358

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 1,542

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

The City of Sitka posted the following update on COVID-19 cases in Sitka as of 5 p.m. Friday.

Active cases in Sitka – 7

Hospitalizations (cumulative) in Sitka – 5

Cumulative Sitka cases – 372 (325 resident; 46 non-resident)

Cumulative recovered – 364

Deceased (cumulative) – 1

The local case data are from the City of Sitka website.

• • •


Sitka Vax Stats 

The State of Alaska DHSS reported Monday the following statistics on vaccinations for Sitka.

Partially vaccinated – 4,978 (71.64%)

Fully vaccinated – 4,612 (66.37%)

Total population (16+) –6,949

Sitka has vaccinated (with at least one dose) 1,245 (84.24%) of its senior population (1,478 total), age 65 and older. 

Vaccination data for the City and Borough of Sitka can be found online at:





May 2001

Sitka High boys track team ran to a 2nd-place finish in Juneau while the girls finished fourth. Sitka long-jumper Derek Hirai leapt 19’9.5” for the 2nd highest jump in the state this year. ... Others doing well were Thor Hartwig, Matt Mangini, Damien LaMar, Jeff Loiselle, Logan Wild, Elgin Hollins, Brian Friske, Brian Mork, Mike Bagley, Cody Campbell ....

May 1971

New Loyal Order of Moose officers, installed Saturday, are Earl Arnold, Grant Laiblin Jr., James Gardner, William Wakefield Jr., Eddielee Hodnett, Basil Riley, Lloyd Van Doren, James Firestone Sr. and Lynden Kincaid.