The standard high school yearbook protocol: A dozen motivated students scurry around campus taking photographs and polls of their fellow students during the school year, after which the beautiful hardcover result is distributed for fervent signing, and the student committee has thoroughly bonded. Not so in elementary school.
Yearbooks, previously reserved only for the upper echelon of K-12 education, are now being passed around at most Santa Barbara County elementary schools.
Putting together an elementary school yearbook is an ambitious job, usually taken on by a few volunteer parents.
“Our objective is to break even. This isn’t a moneymaking venture,” said Jana Hey-Shipton, who along with Irene Owens makes up the Hollister School yearbook committee.
The yearbook committee at Hollister has been an apprenticeship program of sorts; parents are gradually filtered in as they learn the ropes from previous organizers. Together, Owens and Hey-Shipton create, market and distribute the annual hardcover book.
“For me, it kind of happened gradually,” said Hey-Shipton, who began putting together the yearbook two years ago. “We’ve begun using digital photography, and that helps a lot.”
When the Hollister yearbook began about 10 years ago, the majority of photographs were hard copies, and it was much more “labor intensive,” Hey-Shipton said.
“It was collecting photographs, cutting and pasting with construction paper, gluing,” she said. “With digital photography, every shot has the potential to be great because you can crop it or enhance it if it’s too dark.”
A big aspect of incorporating yearbooks into elementary schools has been the price. Some parents are even opting to make personalized scrapbooks to have signed instead of buying the school version.
“I kind of object to spending upwards of $30 for something like that,” said Bonnie Bittencourt, whose daughter Maddy goes to Kellogg School. “I can make one for her myself using my own pictures of events that are more specific to Maddy and her friends.”
Grover, who is on the Brandon School yearbook committee, said she made a personalized book for her kindergartner on the Web site Shutterfly so other parents could buy copies online.
“It was just like a little yearbook, but for her class only,” Grover said.
Hollister sixth-grade teacher Christy Morse said she would prefer an updated Web site, so that all families have an equal chance to access photographs from the school year.
“The hardest part for me is that not everyone can afford them,” Morse said, “so that the families with money have them and those without, don’t.”
Some scholarship programs have emerged to ensure students who want a yearbook can afford one, especially in sixth grade when the books become a social institution.
“We invite families to make an additional donation for a scholarship program, and last year we were able to give 10 extra books,” said Owens, who mentioned that most of the scholarships go toward the sixth-graders.
Collecting photographs is one of the biggest challenges the committees face, and they must rely on other parents and teachers to help out.
“Collecting photos that showcase as many kids as possible is tough,” Owens said. “If parents see their kids, they are more likely to buy the book.”
Last year, Hey-Shipton recruited her daughter to take photographs around campus. Getting studetns involved at the elementary school level, however, is for the most part more work than it’s worth.
“Most of the kids are so young, and plus they just don’t have the time,” Owens said. “It would be nice, but every day is just so packed at their age.”
There has been some student participation at Hollister, however. Every child has the chance to submit an entry in an art and writing contest, centered on the yearbook’s theme. The winners are published on the first page.
For now, the time commitment for Owens and Hey-Shipton is a couple of hours a week. That will increase substantially, however, as the school year progresses and the book nears its publication deadline.
“If you can get your pictures earlier and pull your spreads together earlier, you don’t have such a crunch at the end,” Hey-Shipton said. Parents are already ordering yearbooks, which are $25 if purchased before the Christmas vacation price break.
Ordering the correct amount of yearbooks from the publishing company is crucial, since the process has not been breaking even the past few years. If the money-losing trend continues, Hey-Shipton says they may revert to paperback covers.
Although the work is tedious and uncompensated, Owens and Hey-Shipton say they are both happy to be doing it.
“I was a skeptic at first, too,” Owens says of yearbooks. “But my kids have theirs out every week looking at pictures. They love them. For the money, it’s so worth it.”
Noozhawk intern Mollie Helmuth can be reached at email@example.com.