Local News



School starts in the Kenai Peninsula Borough on Monday but students at 17 central peninsula schools will be learning from home. COVID-19 case counts have risen to the point of putting central peninsula schools in red, high-risk status, meaning schools in Kasilof, Sterling, Kenai, Nikiski and Soldotna are shifting to remote learning. 

The eastern peninsula is at yellow, or medium-risk status, while the southern peninsula and remote communities are at green, low-risk status. Class will be in session at schools in those regions Monday. The risk statuses are based on the average number of cases over a 14-day range, as well as other factors. 

“So we’re looking at what the daily counts are from the state. So we’re taking the scientific data that the state has and they’ve verified and we’re looking at the 14-day trends. We’re looking at seven-day averages. And remember, with COVID, we’re always looking behind us, it’s not really what's happening today,” said Pegge Erkeneff, communications director for KPBSD. “And so we’re looking at all that with our medical advisory team to determine, is the risk really shifting to higher? And then we have to look at if we have a positive case in a school, a student or staff person. And that’s a different thing and could require a different response than if we’re looking at what these 14-day trends are.”

The district has COVID information on alert levels, school status, COVID mitigation, sports, remote learning and much more on its COVID-19 dashboard, available from its website.

Kenai Peninsula Food Bank

The coronavirus pandemic has had a particularly tough economic impact on the food-service industry. Restaurants, caterers and other food businesses that usually purchase Alaska-grown produce have canceled or drastically cut back their orders this year, leaving local farmers with a surplus of produce. The USDA is buying excess food and making it available to food banks.

“And then food banks, at their own cost, are distributing it in their areas. So we’ve been sending trucks up to Anchorage two to three times a week, bringing down pallets of fresh produce and milk and distributing it throughout the whole, entire Kenai Peninsula,” said Randi Smith, head of donor relations at the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank. “So that’s helped everyone because there’s no income qualification or nothing like that. It’s just, ‘This is here, if you need it, take it.’”

On the peninsula, rather than make everyone come to the food bank, the food bank is bringing food to communities by partnering with churches and other organizations for distribution. Boxes of food have been distributed at the Kenai, Soldotna and North Star United Methodist churches, the Hospice office on the Kenai Spur Highway in Soldotna, in Hope, in Homer and other places in between.

Alaska CARES grants have been slow to get to the businesses and organizations struggling with the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Legal issues have been dismissed, processing problems are being addressed and on Thursday, Gov. Mike Dunleavy proposed modifications to expand eligibility.

Peninsula primary results show some upsets

Aug 19, 2020

 Preliminary Primary Election results show close races and a number of upsets brewing across the state. On the Kenai Peninsula, there’s a little bit of that drama, even though two incumbent state representatives are running unopposed.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Though the Kenai Performers cast “Dancing at Lughnasa” before coronavirus became a ubiquitous term, the show is an unexpectedly good tonal fit for culture during the pandemic.

“Finding joy in a rough time. I’ve always really enjoyed the Irish mentality of storytelling where you have humor and sadness in the same story and it somehow fits,” said Ian McEwen, who is directing the Kenai Performers production of “Dancing at Lughnasa,” which opens tonight at the performers’ space behind Subway on Kalifornsky Beach Road.

McEwen cast the show in January and it was supposed to be staged in May. But then, of course, came COVID-19. The cast switched to Zoom rehearsals for a couple of months, which was not ideal in many regards, but helpful in others.

“Rehearsal over Zoom really just turned into more of a line reading,” McEwen said. “Every time we would do about half the show at a time. And one of the biggest parts of Zoom was just to keep the actors in the script and to keep that connection. And because we ended up being kind of our own little group, trying to stay in your own little unit because of this, we grew into such a tight group that it really added to the family aspect of the show. So, oddly enough, it helped the performances.”