Yearbook staff works to overcome obstacles

Abi Johnson, Staff Writer

For a staff tasked with telling the story of the school year, the COVID-19 outbreak that has led to school closures has made the production of the yearbook difficult. In particular, Elizabeth Beattie (11) can’t do her job as a member of the design team, which is responsible for creating spread templates for the other staff members to input photos and stories.

“I need to be able to access our student media server, which is where we store all of our spreads, and InDesign [software] to actually create the spreads,” Beattie said. “It’s unfortunate since being able to design the spreads themselves is very fun and what I do best at. Instead of doing that, I have transferred to our social media team.”

While the social media team has always been tasked with getting content and informing students of opportunities to get in the yearbook, it has found itself even more vital to yearbook production during quarantine.

“Two major things happen when we aren’t in school,” social media editor Bailey Hetzel (11) said. “One, there aren’t any major events to cover regarding the school, for example games, Prom, and Senior Breakfast, so that gives less content. And two, we can no longer go out and take pictures for the book. [So,] social media is responsible for getting the word out. We’re informing students on yearbook info first, but we’re also planning to include extra content such as throwbacks and activities you can do at home. Because after all, we are in quarantine.”

Hetzel said it has been difficult to get students to engage online.

“We’re having a really hard time getting photos for the book, so we’re so lucky this happened later in the year,” she said. “It would be really hard to create a book from what we’ve been sent, which is maybe 10 photos. We try really hard to include everybody but we’re in charge of covering some 950 students. We give everyone the opportunity to send in photos and nobody does. They are somewhat responsible for sending in their stories and photos. Especially in this case.”

Because the staff doesn’t have access to key programs including Adobe InDesign, the burden of putting together the yearbook falls on editors in chief Lily Schutt and Lasya Damaraju.

“The biggest issue I think we’re currently facing is lack of contact,” Schutt said. “Lasya and I have had to FaceTime one another frequently to go over proofs and talk about edits, but even despite that, it’s not the same as face-to-face and it’s hard for us to get a lot of things done. We also don’t have the same technology that we used to and attempting to get all the programs needed to properly produce a yearbook has been a process to say the least.”

Another issue the staff faces is yearbook sales. While many students have pre-ordered their books, the staff also relies on sales when the yearbook is being distributed. If school is still out, those in-person sales will not happen.

“Budget is something we’re still really working out the kinks of, but we are expecting to see a negative impact on sales,” Schutt said. “Hopefully through social media we’re able to spread the word that students need to buy online this year.”

Along with finishing the yearbook by themselves, Schutt and Damaraju are working with adviser Jodie Capron to create assignments for the staff. They are also going through the 2020-21 editor-in-chief application process.

“It just feels like we have a million things on our plate,” Schutt said.

Hetzel said she is impressed by the effort put in by Schutt and Damaraju.

“Lily and Lasya, our editors, are working so crazy-hard to finish this book, and I feel helpless because there’s nothing I can do but try and get content for them,” Hetzel said. “And even that I’m struggling to do. They’re used to having 32 others students help them. Here they are doing all the work from home. … It’s insane and I hope everyone realizes the work that was put into this book, especially on their end.”

Despite the struggles, Schutt said she remains optimistic.

“Right now, our staff is just doing our best to produce the best yearbook we possibly can considering the circumstances,” she said. “Lasya and I worked incredibly hard this year to make this book one of the best West Shore has ever seen so it’s been really hard for us to lose the momentum we had going throughout the year, but we’re of course still pushing through and are expecting to have a beautiful book in the end of all this.”