Matthew Trembley isn’t camera shy, nor shy about going out of his way to get all-important snapshots of a historic time in the lives of students.
Trembley is Heritage High School’s yearbook editor-in-chief. He’s busier than ever documenting school life in this pandemic-riddled era, because after all, how do you fill a yearbook of memories in a school year with so many voids?
You get creative.
“It’s not like any other year,” he said.
Yearbook staffs around Clark County have faced the challenges and complications of different models of instruction, canceled events and activities, absent classmates and limited access as they work to pull together a publication reflective of a school year unlike any other.
While COVID-19 will serve its purpose in the book, it’s not the entire story. Still, Heritage yearbook adviser Troy Wayrynen said, “This is a history book.”
When COVID-19 concerns first shut down schools March 13, 2020, it forced students and staff to scramble to meet their publishing deadlines remotely. Many schools had an April deadline.
Gathering material wasn’t a problem for yearbook staffers then since most of it was in. This year, though, it’s the opposite effect.
Many traditional events have been sidelined. Pep assemblies haven’t happened. Music and theater productions moved online. Clubs continue to meet remotely. Recently, high school sports returned in condensed seasons.
Items that wouldn’t be yearbook-worthy also suddenly are up for consideration.
“You can’t do traditional things,” said senior Saskia Summerhill, the co-editor-in-chief of Prairie High’s yearbook, The Talon. “What story comes in, whatever new events happen, you have to roll with it and take what’s given to you.”
What’s been available, though, are members of the student body.
At Battle Ground, their go-to for reaching out to students is through social media, said senior Julia Rainey, Battle Ground High School’s editor-in-chief of The Bengal. Battle Ground also created Google forms for students and staff to submit photos. They also plan to document summer activities, the wildfires that torched parts of the Pacific Northwest in the fall, highlight COVID-19 quarantine hobbies, and students’ holiday fun. There’s even a category for favorite pies.
Students have been receptive to shedding light on their lives outside school.
“We’ve definitely been getting a lot of new ways of reaching out to people,” Rainey said. “It definitely all comes down to luck and who is willing to help you out.”
Only recently have high school students across Clark County returned to in-person instruction. Students also have the choice to stay with full-time remote learning, which can add another wrinkle of craziness pulling off a monumental task of a yearbook if staffs are split.
This school year is Charlotte Adams’ third year as part of yearbook, and her first as co-editor-in-chief at Prairie with Summerhill. She described the experience in recent months as a walk on a fence at times because of all the twists and turns along the way.
That also plays into Prairie’s yearbook theme for the year, “Trotting the Unknown.”
“We’re creating the map of our school year as we go along,” Adams said. “It’s going with what we have right now.”
Photography access can be hit or miss, too. Prairie’s yearbook adviser Leah Zika said they’ve relied more on parents who are handy with a camera at sporting events since state protocols restrict the total number of attendees at high school events.
All of Evergreen Public Schools’ four comprehensive high schools are collaborating. Wayrynen, the Heritage adviser, meets with other advisers monthly to share ideas, and assist their staffs in any way possible. For example, if one photographer from a school is at a sporting event featuring another EPS schools, that photographer is available to take photos of both teams, Wayrynen said.
Part of the yearbook class also involves teaching students page layout and design. Wayrynen finds InDesign, a common desktop publishing program used in student and professional publications, is difficult to use remotely. So to save on time this year — since 16 of his 26 yearbook students remain in full remote learning — he mocked up several page templates so students can drop photos onto the page, and write captions and other copy.
And yes, Wayrynen still sleeps soundly at night, despite zero of Heritage’s 252-page yearbook being complete. June is this year’s deadline.
The added pressures of yearbook in an already pressure-filled senior year is what Trembley, the Heritage editor-in-chief, thrives on. It might be a daunting task to pull off, but he said he’s prepared for it.
In fact, when it came time to come up with a theme early on in the school year, Trembley reached out to several classmates for a spark. He found many students’ words came to the same conclusion on looking toward the future.
That’s how he came up with “The Upside” as Heritage’s yearbook’s 2020-21 theme. He wants the publication to reflect school life and document a historic school year without letting COVID-19 document the entire story.
“How do we still stay in that form of positivity and stay in the context in the year?” Trembley said “I want them to imagine and look back into what was actually good from this year.
“It’s all about looking at the brighter side.”