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‘It really represents this year’

High school yearbook will be different, but probably a collector's item

Northview — The Northview High School yearbook will look different this year, but staffers say it’s a piece of history their peers are going to want to own.

Senior Abby Starner, the business manager, and co-editors Grace Lambert, a junior, and senior Paige Hartman are in their second year on the yearbook staff. While neither year has been typical, the 2021-22 yearbook is hoped to be one of a kind.

When schools across the state were shuttered last March to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, yearbook staff had just celebrated having sent the annual collection of memories to the printer. “I think we’d just had the (wrap-up) party,” Grace recalled.

‘We’re really proud of this yearbook. Who wouldn’t want to remember this crazy year?’

— Grace Lambert, co-editor

The only difference with the 2019-20 yearbook from past years: Spring sports, which take place too late in the school year to be included in print and usually are distributed on a disc at year’s end, didn’t happen at all.

Then came fall. New year, new world, it seemed. And thus, new yearbook rules. 

The “budget” for the year — the aim every year is to recoup the cost to print the previous year and have a little left over for any needed equipment — was effectively cut in half, Abby said. After sending an initial letter to area businesses to solicit ads, which are the main source of funding, the decision was made to allow them to focus on remaining in business.

More Than a Few Changes 

Besides far fewer ads, here’s what else the yearbook will lack, either due to budget constraints, activity cancellations or safety protocols:

  • Overall pages were reduced from about 215 to 150. The cost has also been reduced from $55 to $45;
  • Candid moments from the homecoming football game and dance, which did not happen. But there will be professionally photographed photos of students in formal wear. “Things are in there, they are just going to be different,” adviser Matt Howe said.
  • The highly anticipated senior group photo, taken on the football field; 
  • Safety protocols mean many masked faces and fewer shoulder-to-shoulder poses.

Here’s what will be added:

  • Spring sports will be included in the print version. “It was really so hard to determine what can and can’t be in the yearbook as the pandemic was unfolding,” Howe said. Staffers attended practices to get photos in case actual competition didn’t happen. Now that they are back on, photographers are returning.
  • The yearbook, which students and families can order online only this year, will be distributed at the beginning of next school year. They will be mailed to or can be picked up by Class of 2021 members.
  • Photos of students learning fully from home. And more are needed. “We were thinking we would get a lot of those, but that’s been a really big challenge,” Abby said.
  • More — and more varied — photos contributed by students and parents that aim to highlight how staff and students learned and lived this school year. Those include summer jobs, pets and student vehicles.
Yearbook adviser Matt Howe commends this year’s staff for going above and beyond (credit: Grace Lambert)

If This, Then That 

Planning the yearbook this year has been all about contingencies, Abby said. “We sort of have to have two plans for things, like ‘if this activity happens this page will be for this, but if not, we’ll change it with this.’ ” 

While gathering those who need to be photographed for any given yearbook photo is always a challenge, it’s been especially so this school year, Paige explained. “Because we’re in cohorts and half of us are in the building two days a week and the other half is here a different two days.”

For example, senior mock elections, where two students share a “most likely to” or “best,” but might not be in the same cohort. Or might be entirely virtual this year.

“It’s been a struggle, for sure,” Abby said.

Added Howe: “Usually, yearbook is ‘second or third time is the charm.’ With COVID it’s more like the sixth or seventh time is the charm. You plan, it blows up, you plan, it blows up again, then the seventh time it works out.”

And because of the way school days and cohorts are structured, yearbook class will not meet for two of this year’s four quarters — 18 full weeks. But staff will still be taking photos, attending sports practices and competitions when they happen, designing pages and writing copy.

Howe, who teaches U.S. history and journalism and has been yearbook adviser since the 2006-7 school year, said staff this year — down by about a third from past years because of scheduling difficulties — has more than risen to the unique challenges presented by the pandemic.

“We’re really proud of this yearbook,” Grace said. “Who wouldn’t want to remember this crazy year?”

Added Abby: “It’s been really fun to give a sense of normalcy of a yearbook being made, to see people come together to be in this, and to make this happen. It really represents this year.”

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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