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archival photo of a branson classroom from the 1900s

For over 100 years,  Branson has prepared young people for lives of consequence. 

In 1917, fifteen Marin families combined forces to start a local school, converting an old barn in downtown San Rafael to a schoolhouse. Its popularity grew quickly, and within a year it had expanded and renamed the San Rafael School for Girls, signaling its unique place as one of the only local private schools to educate girls (as well as boys).

Four years later, sisters Katharine and Laura Branson were named co-headmistresses and the school was renamed. The Katharine Branson School (KBS) officially opened with 54 students in September of 1920. In 1922 the school moved to its present campus in Ross. 

At a time when most prestigious girls’ schools prepared them for marriage and motherhood, KBS’s academic rigor and forward thinking stood out:

The purpose of The Katharine Branson School is to give girls a thorough foundation...which will fit them to enter any of the American colleges and universities… and will prepare them to take an active and intelligent part in the activities of any community in which they may live.KBS brochure, 1920’s

KBS remained a secondary school for girls until 1972, when the Mount Tamalpais School (MTS), a day school for boys, was established on the campus. MTS and KBS shared the same academic standards, philosophy, leadership, and faculty. In July of 1985, the two schools united under the name The Branson School, later nicknamed simply “Branson.”  A few years earlier, the decades-old boarding program also officially ended.

In February 2020, Branson launched a community-wide Centennial celebration, though plans were cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, as throughout its history, the Branson community showed great resilience, adaptability, and creativity in the face of challenge – switching immediately to online instruction, and one of the first schools in Marin to bring students back to campus for in-person learning.

The outlook for Branson’s second century remains bright. Guided by our mission and core values, we continue to prepare students for a future that we can’t foresee, for career paths that have not yet been invented, and to live and thrive in an ever-changing world.

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