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High school yearbooks reflect the COVID-19 pandemic

Some of the pages will show how students lived during the quarantine and how COVID-19 affected their lives.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — When school started on September 3 at Mountainside High School in Beaverton, it was the start of a special year. The school opened in 2017, but wouldn't have a graduating class until this year.

Little did seniors and students know that when they went home on March 12, that would be the last time they would set foot in their school for the rest of the year. Weeks later, Oregon Governor Kate Brown ordered all schools to close for the remainder of the year.

"It's been hard for all seniors everywhere, but it's been particularly heartbreaking for our seniors who were going to be this monumental class that were going to be the first to graduate from the high school," Katie Noah, Mountainside yearbook advisor said.

When school ended, the yearbook was nowhere close to being done and an April 6 deadline to get it to the publisher was only weeks away.

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"We were close to 110 pages that hadn't been completed. Some at various stages. We had to redo or rethink the content because the events weren't going to happen," Noah and her staff pushed through and finished the book in time, but also changing pages to reflect the current times.

"We did a whole page called the Quaran-teens and we gathered content of what people have been to since being in lockdown."

Sports, prom and spring activities like school plays were canceled as well. Without those activities and team pictures, the yearbook staff improvised. They borrowed an idea from a school in Virginia and used last year's team photos, blurred out the faces, but added the names of every athlete signed up to participate.

"We really felt it was important to honor them. Especially the seniors that were looking forward to their last season."

At Heritage High School in Vancouver, staff had the same April 6 deadline to meet.

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"I just had to sit down and think for a moment, how's this going to work? We had at least 70 pages that had to be completed," said Heritage yearbook advisor Troy Wayrynen.

The pictures were already taken, but the pages had to be assembled and the captions written. He said he reached out to his students for help and one senior, he said, stepped up big for him.

"At the end of the day, it was all about Fran making this happen. I'm so proud of her and so excited that she had that dedication and that's what it takes."

When it comes to sports and spring activities, they too could only work with what they had. He says a few students wanting to learn how to shoot using the school's DSLR camera, ended up shooting school practices, which helped them cover the pages of spring sports in the yearbook.

"We were able to make use of those practice photographs for those different sports. So when it came to baseball and softball and track and field, that's what we ended up using" Wayrynen said.

Not all pages are completed by the April 6 deadline during a normal year, prom and certain activities make it into the supplemental pages that are added once the books are printed. This year's supplemental pages are filled with letters from students about how the COVID-19 has affected them.

It gives a students a chance to write the ending of their own story.

Senior Jaylia Metz wrote, "There are some days (usually mid-January when we’ve just returned from winter break) that going to school simply doesn’t sound appealing. We all have days in which our alarm goes off and we would just rather stay in bed. There are days that first period feels like it takes five hours to get through. There are days that you can’t keep your eyes off the clock. There are days that you wish that you were at home instead of huddled up in a stuffy classroom. We all experience this to varying degrees. It’s only natural to become bored with the things we are expected to do everyday. 

"It is in this way that we most often take things for granted. Once a thing has become familiar to us, we start to appreciate its value less than we probably should. 

“You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

"I will be the first one to admit that I didn’t value the ability I had to go to school on a day-to-day basis as much as I should have. Now that it’s gone, there are so many things I miss about school. I miss the casual conversations with classmates that were had before the bell rang. I miss going to Key Club events. I miss tennis practice. I miss my teachers. I miss the way that school provided a structure for my day. I miss just being in the same room as my friends and classmates. Thinking about the fact that I’ll never be able to experience those things again makes my heart hurt. 

"I can’t help but think back to those mid-January days where I wanted to stay in bed more than I wanted to go to school. I would now give anything to be huddled up in a stuffy classroom if only it meant I could be close to my friends and teachers again. 

"This whole experience will leave it’s mark on all of us. For me, I know that when everything goes back to normal, I will cherish the small things. I will value the times that I can be close to my friends and family. I will have more of an appreciation for my day-to-day life-- even if it isn’t always the most exciting."

This is a book that will be held onto for years to come and filled with memories of the funny times, the good ones and the quarantine of 2020.

"The yearbook is such an important part of student's lives. Obviously it's that product that's produced that comes out at the end of the year, students love to sign these pages, they love to hold onto it, they love to reflect," Wayrynen said. "It's something that you can hold onto and really embrace and cherish frankly."

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