Mission Bay High pulls off yearbook despite school closure

Members of the Mission Bay High School 2020 yearbook staff, with chief editor Kimberly Torres in front in dark glasses. Yearbook adviser Ron Lancia is on the left.

“2020 was a year unlike any other in the history of Mission Bay High School, and what will be remembered most in years to come is how our campus came together through the toughest of times. From the administration to the teachers to the parents to the students, our legacy will be the strength of our community.”

That’s the closing salutation in the 2020 Mission Bay High School yearbook, a reminder of what the year has held for seniors experiencing a global pandemic and resulting school closures in their final year of high school.

The fact that the yearbook happened at all and has a full 164 pages is a testament to the efforts of the yearbook staff. It even has complete coverage of each sport and activity, despite the school closing to in-person classes and other activities two weeks before the deadline.

Yearbook adviser Ron Lancia and chief editor Kimberly Torres shared how the feat was pulled off by a small group keen on finishing what it started.

A complicated situation

“When the news came that school was closing immediately, the first thing I thought about was, ‘Oh my God, yearbook!’” Torres said.

The yearbook covers four primary categories: academics, clubs, sports and student life.

Torres met with Lancia, who also is MBHS’s International Baccalaureate film teacher, to discuss a game plan. Myriad issues were ahead of them: Some spring sports hadn’t started yet; others were only two to three weeks in with minimal photos. There would be no in-person communication among the yearbook staff and students; work would have to be done at home. About 20 pages were missing material, and the deadline to submit the yearbook was in two weeks.

“At first, we started to think, ‘What’s Plan B going to be?’” Lancia recalled.

The full yearbook staff has 35 students plus Lancia, but not all would be able to be involved in the final push.

“Unfortunately, not everyone has computers or whatnot at home, but for those who were able to reach back and participate to an extent, they were able to help us complete the yearbook,” Torres said.

“The 2020 yearbook reflects the total team effort of 35 dedicated students who collaborated on all aspects of the production, including journalism to photography to graphic design to copy editing to marketing to sales,” Lancia said.

The 2020 Mission Bay High School yearbook leadership team, with chief editor Kimberly Torres kneeling in the front.

Against all odds

Lancia and Torres were in contact every day during those two weeks. Yearbook volunteer photographer and retired MBHS teacher Brian Kerr along with parent Christine Pilger (who was instrumental in connecting with students’ parents) and her daughter Laura also were primary players leading up to the deadline.

Lancia gave much credit to Torres in particular.

“We had every page covered; we didn’t miss one. I would not be able to say that if it wasn’t for this young lady,” Lancia said.

Torres said one of the biggest challenges in finishing any yearbook is the spring sports portion, given that spring sports start right before deadline. But this year was particularly difficult since only about two games had taken place before school was closed.

The photography for the spring sports pages came from a mix of parent volunteers and Kerr, who took photos of a scrimmage on a day when a junior varsity girls’ softball game had been canceled.

The professional photography company hired to take sports photos for the yearbook only shoots varsity, Lancia said, so “Kerr’s work is absolutely essential.”

Torres said good content for the yearbook often depends on school activities and events like Spirit Week.

This year, though, Spirit Week couldn’t happen on campus. But many students participated at home, dressing up in fun outfits and costumes and posting photos on Instagram.

“We even ended up having the principal ... sitting there in his pajamas at home,” Lancia said.

In the end, the yearbook was submitted to Jostens yearbook company by deadline, much to the joy and relief of all involved.

“I probably did a little happy dance at my computer,” Kerr said.

MBHS students will receive their yearbooks a week or two later than originally expected.

The ‘Legacy’

Long before whispers of a pandemic began, “Legacy” was the decided theme of the 2020 yearbook.

“We’re super proud of all our students. … Our kids have been very resilient and they’ve been absolutely inspiring,” Lancia said.

Still, the end of the school year is bittersweet, as MBHS’ graduating seniors will have to forgo the many traditions and activities enjoyed by senior classes before them.

“It’s definitely devastating. Me and my friends, we imagined Grad Night, we imagined prom, all these senior activities,” Torres said. “And one of the things … that I definitely looked forward to was being at the yearbook release party.”

To make up for there being no party this year for students to sign their friends’ yearbooks before dispersing for the summer, there will be a virtual signing with Jostens. Students will be able to share their personal URL links with their friends to allow digital signings, which can be saved online or printed out to be put in the yearbooks.

The yearbook is “a treasure for you to have and keep in your life,” said Lancia, who still has his high school yearbook from the Class of 1990. “So it’s something that we took seriously and took a lot of pride in.”

“This year more than ever, this yearbook is going to this piece of gold that is going to be treasured,” he said.

MBHS graduation update

According to MBHS Principal Ernest Remillard, a senior video posted on the school website, the San Diego Unified School District website and social media platforms will help recognize graduates on Tuesday, June 9, and the school will work with a local company to hold a drive-through celebration set for Friday, May 29.

On the day of the drive-through, students will receive all of their Class of 2020 items, such as cap, gown, honor cords, yard signs and more. Then students and families will drive down Lee Street to a celebration that will include a disc jockey, party lighting, “congratulations” signs and projected images while MBHS staff members wave to the students.

“The school district is still very hopeful we will have a graduation ceremony in July or August,” Remillard said. “Our hope is that we will be on the [sports] field, which may need modification, but the look is going to depend on health restrictions.”

If a graduation ceremony can’t happen on the field or in the auditorium, MBHS will hold a virtual event, he said.

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