Roadmap To Reopening
At Branson we are resolved to do everything possible to reopen our campus for the 2020-21 school year and to keep it open because we believe in-person learning is best for our students. However, we are keeping the health, safety, and well-being of our entire community – students, parents, faculty, and staff – top of mind. This year will be unlike any we’ve previously experienced. It will be unpredictable. We will need to be more flexible and nimble than we have ever been before, prepared to shift gears on a moment’s notice. Through this plan, we hope to create positive, equitable learning experiences within this challenging new state of being.
SERVING OUR STUDENTS IN A COVID-19 WORLD
- Guiding Principles
- Learning Models
- Assessing Risk
- Cohorts & Contact Tracing
- Keeping Our Whole Community Safe
- Prioritize the health, safety, and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff.
- Lean in to Branson’s mission, core values, and strategic plan.
- Opt for face-to-face learning over remote learning whenever it is safe to do so.
- Ensure hygiene- and health- related policies are research-based, clearly communicated, effectively implemented, in line with State and County mandates, and diligently enforced.
- Promote practices and policies that will reduce risk of virus transmission.
We have developed three different learning models to allow for the anticipated disruptions we will encounter this year. We anticipate that we will move between them fluidly throughout the school year.
FACE TO FACE LEARNING MODEL
We believe that face to face learning, on campus, is the best environment for learning and teaching. Our goal is to get back on campus as soon as the risk of exposure is considered low enough that students and teachers can be together, ideally four days a week. However, it will not be "just like it used to be." In this model, significant preventative measures will be in place, including hand-washing, cleaning surfaces, physical distancing, wearing masks, and cohorts.
DISTANCE LEARNING MODEL
In this model, students attend school virtually through synchronous and asynchronous lessons, activities, and projects. Students collaborate online, but not with the same frequency as in regular school experience. In this model, safety conditions dictate that our campus be completely closed. We do not believe that distance learning is a satisfactory long-term substitute for the regular Branson experience; it is a necessary medium when health and safety conditions leave no other option.
HYBRID LEARNING MODEL
This model combines face-to-face learning with coordinated online experiences; some students are on campus and some are at home. Depending on the level of COVID-19 in the community, this approach may be required to lower the density of people on campus. Realistically, we anticipate that much of the 2020-21 school year will be spent in the hybrid learning model.
We began the year in the distance learning model in late August and moved to an in-person / hybrid learning model in mid-October as permitted by state and local public health. At that time, Branson was the first and only high school in Marin to offer on-campus instruction to all students 4 days a week. We hope that at some point this year we will return to a purely face-to-face model, but at this time, we are unsure if that will happen.
Whether we are face-to-face or hybrid, students may always choose to learn from home if their family is not comfortable having them at school or if other family circumstances (travel, other high risk activities outside of school, etc.) require it.
We could not reopen for in-person learning until the State and Marin County Public Health said we could. Since the point at which they approved Branson's Site Specific Plan and determined that in-person learning was possible this fall, we have continue to perform internal and external assessments of risk to select the best learning model for the current moment, guided by the State and Marin County Public Health. While we are committed to being in-person when it is safe to do so, we continuously, daily reassess, making and announcing changes as needed.
This is one of the many frameworks we have used:
- If risk is assessed as HIGH, and/or the State and County mandate it, our campus will be closed and we will move to Distance Learning.
- If risk is assessed as MEDIUM, and we recognize that we need more robust preventative hygiene measures coupled with the possible reduction of student density on campus, we will move to Hybrid Learning. This could include a phased return of students to campus, when we first reopen, allowing us to test protocols and train. It could also mean that some cohorts are learning from home while others are on campus.
- If risk is assessed as LOW, and we are confident that conditions are appropriate to reopen school entirely, we will welcome all students back to campus for Face-to-Face Learning with appropriate safety precautions in place.
Students are assigned to small, stable cohorts throughout the 2020-21 school year. The cohort model limits the number of “contacts” that any one student has in one day, and the fewer the contacts, the less chance there is for spread of COVID-19 throughout the community.
County Health requires us to use contact tracing if someone tests positive, and the cohort model allows us to do this because when we have a positive test, we can go back and “trace” who that person came into contact with. Additionally, when someone tests positive in one of the cohorts, only the students in that cohort need to move to remote learning and quarantine, not the entire school.
Each cohort contains approximately 20-30 students. Cohorts are assigned for classes and other activities (e.g. lunches). Students must remain with their assigned cohorts at all times while on campus. Each group is assigned specific spaces on campus where they will have classes, meals, use restrooms, etc. Students in a given cohort take courses together for 3-week blocks, and are together for all activities on campus throughout the day. Cohort assignments switch every 3-6 weeks when we cycle from ABC courses to DEF courses (see Course Rotation Schedules below).
Faculty and staff are not tied to a specific cohort group or physical location. They move between classrooms and cohorts, using appropriate physical distancing and following hygiene and safety protocols.
Keeping our students, faculty, staff, parents, and families safe requires all of us to work together, help each other, and do our part. Marin County will only reduce our case numbers – and Branson’s campus will only be allowed to reopen and stay open – if every person in our community commits to:
- Wearing a mask at all times
- Keeping a 6-foot distance between people outside of the immediate family members you live with
- Washing hands regularly
- Monthly COVID testing
- Avoiding large group gatherings, unnecessary travel, and other high risk activities
More than ever before, the decisions that Branson families make outside of school have a direct impact on our whole community. We can not mandate what happens outside of school, but we urge students and parents, faculty, and staff to be safe and consider this “ripple effect” when making plans outside of school hours. Learn more about Branson's Community Contract & Code of Conduct.
If a student engages in high risk activities, we simple ask that the family inform the school and that the student learn from home for two weeks. To discuss your circumstances, speak to our COVID Coordinator.
THE SCHOOL DAY
- Daily/Weekly Schedule
- Course Rotation Schedule
- The Daily Experience
- Maintaining Our Community Life
- Getting Help
Our new daily/ weekly academic schedule will be in effect for the whole 2020-21 school year. This schedule is effective face to face, or fully online, or in a hybrid model, so there will be NO change to the schedule regardless of which model is dictating our approach.
- Students have only three classes at a time instead of six.
- Students take three of their classes at a time, in three week rotations, through the fall. In the spring we have adjusted around the planned vacations to offer 3- and 6-week rotations.
- Each class meets for 90 minutes instead of 55 or 70 minutes.
- Flex time has been increased to provide students time to meet with teachers or one another, to take Human Development (HD) classes, to meet with advisors and deans, to work on college admissions, and to experience clubs and affinity spaces.
- Wednesdays are online only, to allow for cleaning of campus.
- Assessments have been redesigned to be more suited to a hybrid model, but our grading system remains unchanged.
The following schedule illustrates at a high level how the school week looked initially; it has since evolved. The most current schedules by class year are posted at the link on the right side of this page, and also posted for parents on students on our Blackbaud SIS "Class of 20XX" Resource tiles.
Students take three classes at a time, in rotations, through the year.
The current end-of-fall-semester course rotation schedule, which reflects some modifications from what was originally announced in August, is:
The spring semester 2021 course rotation reflects some additional modifications to our original plans, reflecting lessons learned during the fall semester. (Note the following change from what is printed below, announced 4/20/21: The learning from home week that was planned for May 10-14 has been changed to in-person):
For reference, the initial fall rotation schedule was:
The most up-to-date schedules for our end-of-semester classes and for the spring semester are posted in the boxes on the right of this page and are also available to current students, parents, faculty and staff on Branson's Blackbaud SIS class resource tiles.
Being on campus looks and feels very different than in the past. And yet, the camaraderie of our campus community remains intact. Here's a small taste of what you can expect:
Each morning, before arrival at campus, all students, faculty, and staff – as well as any visitors to campus –undergo a required daily health screening. The VisitU app asks several questions about how you feel, if you have any symptoms, and whether you have come into contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19. If they answer yes to any of these questions, they stay home and contact the COVID Coordinator for further guidance. If not, they are cleared to come to campus (on days when we are in-person learning). Upon arrival at campus, students check in at designated locations and provide proof of health screening at this time.
After check-in, all students move immediately to assigned classroom space to join your cohort. Each cohort is assigned a specific classroom, outdoor lunch area, and restroom (or portable toilet and hand-washing station) on campus.
Classrooms look different. In the New Oaks and Study Hall buildings, we've removed the Harkness tables, and replaced them with tables and chairs that allow for physical distancing. For safety, all students are seated facing the same direction. Spaces like the Crossways Living Room, Old Dining Hall, Dance Studio, and the Library are also serving as classrooms this year. There are less decorative materials in the classrooms than usual, to allow for ease of cleaning. Windows and doors remain open, and we use large fans in each room to allow for plenty of fresh air circulation. Tents have also been set up all over campus for each class and lunch group, and some teachers are electing to teach outside. Because outdoor temperatures on campus can have a wide range during a single day, it's important to plan accordingly and dress in layers.
Students spend the whole school day with their cohort group, moving to classes and breaks and lunch together. Everyone on campus wears masks throughout the day, except when eating lunch. Expect to wash your hands regularly throughout the day, and bring your own water bottle clearly labeled with your name, so you can refill it. Students, faculty, and staff will all pitch in to help keep classroom and lunch spaces clean throughout the day.
Activities with other students, such as advisory and other classes, take place online, while students share physical space with their cohorts.
Students’ movement on campus is much more restricted than it was in the past. Students move from place to place with your cohort during the school day, and are required to physically distance (6 ft. apart) and wear a mask at all times, inside and outside. Congregating informally or formally with those outside your cohort is not allowed.
We recognize this this may be difficult adjustment for many students, but all of this is necessary to ensure that we limit exposure and can remain on campus together for as long as possible.
Lunchtime on campus looks much different than it used to, but the food is still as delicious as ever. During lunch, students must stay with their cohort and observe physical distancing. Each cohort is assigned to a specific outdoor space, equipped with pop-up tents and outdoor chairs. Food is only allowed during lunch and assigned snack break periods in cohort groups.
Working with our student leaders, Epicurean has developed an enticing array of “boxed” lunches, hot and cold, and these are delivered to the lunch sites daily in reusable, pre-packaged containers. This year’s menus are just as mouth-watering as ever before. We continue to work with those who have specific dietary needs. Students pre-order their lunches online each week for the following week.
Epicurean is also providing snack boxes in classrooms, with a wide array of snacks selected by a the Student COVID Committee, which are replenished weekly. Students are discouraged from bringing their own snacks to campus; if they do, they may not be shared with others. The Snack Shack is closed this school year.
The Student Life team is working hard to preserve and enhance the co-curricular experience for all students in this coming school year. In our new schedule, much more time has been allotted to Clubs, Affinity Space, and Advisory than in the past. We've also added more “Flex blocks” to our new schedule, giving students the chance to connect with each other and their teachers. Unfortunately, all of these programs are virtual for now, but we are looking into ways to restart them in person once it is safe to do so.
Advisory groups will meet online throughout the 2020-21 school year.
Assembly will be held online throughout the 2020-21 school year.
COVID-19 STUDENT TASK FORCE
The COVID-19 Student Task Force, created during the summer, has been making recommendations to the administration about how best to enhance the student experience for the 2020 - 21 academic year. The group, representing all grade levels, meets weekly and has tackled topics ranging from food services to advisory to school spirit to the classroom experience. For information or to get involved, please contact Meredith Herrera.
Student CE leaders, a subset of the COVID-19 Student Task Force, and the Director of Community Engagement are working to design and reimagine community engagement at the school. Longstanding programs, such as KEEN, the Best Buddies program, KIP, Cyberseniors and Story Stars will continue in an online format. Unfortunately, due to the challenges of doing CE in the current environment, the regular CE requirements have been waived for this school year. However, there are still plenty of opportunities to volunteer and get involved in our communities. Please contact Janeal Fordham, our Director of Community Engagement, for information.
Affinity spaces are designed to help people who have similarities to identify and build community in the diverse world we live in, and also to create a space of love and safety so that they can navigate their environment. During COVID-19, affinity groups meet online. For questions about our affinity spaces, please contact Dr. JuanCarlos Arauz, Branson's Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
This year, the experience of being a Branson student may feel very different than in the past. However, we remain invested in ensuring that every student feels well supported and can easily access everything they need to be successful.
Our technology department continues to support all of our students and families to ensure that systems, equipment, and internet access will not be barriers to learning and participation in online activities. Families with specific technology needs or concerns should reach out to Justin Culley or Cécile Lelievre in our Tech Office.
Director of School Counseling Kim Fahlen continues to offer telecounseling sessions to students.
Advisory groups continue to meet weekly, online, even during on-campus learning. Advisors are also available for 1:1 check-in meetings throughout the year.
THE RAND LEARNING CENTER
Distance and hybrid learning can create unique challenges for some of our students. Students with diagnosed learning differences continue to receive robust support from the Rand Learning Center, starting with online learning support meetings with families and students at the beginning of the year. 1-1 support, open office hours, and class and teacher consultations are also available throughout the year. For more information, contact Annie Morris, our Rand Center Coordinator.
The Student Life team will request feedback and input on how students are feeling, either individually or collectively, throughout the year, in order to ensure we are best meeting their needs. Deans' virtual office hours, 1:1 meetings, Student Senate, the Student Life Advisory Board, and COVID-19 Student Task Force are just a few of the ways that feedback is collected and received.
This fall, we have been offering "Fundamentals of Exercise and Wellness" PE courses designed by our Strength and Conditioning Coach, Bruce Pruiett and the Athletics staff. The courses have online and in-person components, so students can to participate whether they are on campus or at home. Starting in December, when sports resume in a very modified way, students will have the opportunity to choose from a variety of on-campus activities, or continue with their online regimens.
Beginning on December 7 (a change from the December 14 date listed below), we will operate our athletic program in accordance with the guidance announced by the CIF and NCS on July 20. The usual three seasons of sport have been modified and condensed into two seasons for the 2020-21 school year, as follows:
There is no guarantee that the schedules set by the CIF and NCS will unfold as planned. Whether or not games will be played, versus practice and conditioning, remains to be determined and continues to evolve with changing guidance from Public Health and these governing bodies. We are continuing to coordinate with our colleagues in MCAL schools to revise league schedules and search for solutions to the many issues created by this change in athletic seasons and schedules.
Regular classes in the arts continue with modifications. Other arts programs will be postponed until we have more information and guidance from the county, or else they will be re-envisioned and performed in an online format. Currently, all singing and playing of wind instruments in person is not recommended or allowed on campus. If and when that changes, we will make adjustments to our plans.
SCREENING, QUARANTINE, AND TESTING
Each day, prior to arrival at campus, all students, faculty, and staff – as well as any essential visitors to campus – undergo a required daily health screening. Our Visitu app asks several questions about how you feel, if you have any symptoms, and whether you have come into contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19. If there have been no symptoms or close contact, students and employees may proceed to come on campus (when we are open for in-person learning.)
Branson has developed partnerships with testing vendors to perform on-campus testing for our Branson community every two weeks, with required testing for all who wish to learn on campus monthly. On the off-weeks testing is available to our community via our partner schools. Currently testing is covered under the CARES Act. The guidelines and recommendations are changing constantly in this area, including the California rules for insurers.
If a student develops symptoms while on campus, or demonstrates symptoms while being screened into campus, they will be placed into a quarantine facility (formerly the Snack Shack) and tended to by the COVID Coordinator while parents/guardians are called to pick up the student. If it is an employee or essential visitor, they will be sent home.
We follow Marin County and California Public Health protocols for classroom settings. These protocols are constantly evolving, based on continued learning about the virus and its impact and containment in school settings, as well as the state tier status that Marin County is in. For the latest protocols, please visit Marin Health & Human Services' Marin County Coronavirus website.
HEALTH & SAFETY MODIFICATIONS
The CDC recommends regular hand washing throughout the day in order to prevent transmission of virus through touch. In order to facilitate this, the daily schedule has regular hand washing breaks built in. We've also added new hand-washing stations and portable, battery-operated hand sanitizer dispensers around campus.
KEEPING CAMPUS CLEAN
During the day, between classes, faculty, staff, and students work together to clean and disinfect surfaces prior to use by another class group.
Each day, we also have a dedicated cleaning crew team from Peak Cleaning, our cleaning services company, going back and forth around campus to clean and disinfect the restrooms, portable toilet facilities, and portable hand washing stations.
Each evening, after school has ended, Peak Cleaning goes through campus to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces.
Wednesdays are designated deep cleaning days when students and most employees are not on campus. On these days, our Peak Cleaning team disinfects high-touch surfaces, vacuums classrooms and high-traffic areas, and cleans and disinfects all restrooms.
To facilitate a safer and cleaner environment and hybrid/ online learning, we've made the following modifications to our campus:
Installation of new Meeting Owl camera systems in our classrooms, which allow for a greater sense of presence and connection among the students whether they are in the classroom or learning remotely.
Six touchless drinking fountains with water-bottle-filling spouts installed.
Harkness tables removed from New Oaks and Study Hall buildings in favor of tables and desks that allow for better physical distancing with students facing the same direction (recommended by CDC).
Touchless faucets, soap dispensers, and paper towel dispensers installed in all existing bathrooms on campus.
10 - 15 portable toilet facilities installed on campus in order to address the requirement that fewer individuals be allowed in any facility at one time.
20 portable hand washing stations and approximately 50 portable, battery-operated hand sanitizer dispensers installed around campus.
25 outdoor areas on campus designated for cohorts to gather and have lunch, each outfitted with two or three 10 ft. x 10 ft. tent canopies and camping chairs.
Areas such as the Library, Crossways Living Room, the Dance Studio, and Old Dining Hall may be re-designated as classroom spaces.
Large fans in each classroom keep fresh air circulating. Doors and windows are kept open as well.
With input from several parent surveys and extensive guidance from medical experts, we have created our COVID-19 Transportation Plan, which includes carpools, buses, vans, drop-offs, and e-bicycles. We must use more vehicles with fewer students on them this year (e.g. one student per bus seat) to maintain the required physical distancing.
Branson is not organizing carpools this year. This coordination is up to individual families. However, we are exploring greener transportation alternatives to help offset the possible increase in motor vehicle traffic, including the recent rollout of our E-bike program.
Even when Branson's campus is open for students, faculty, and staff, it will remain closed to visitors. In other words, all parents and family members, alumni, prospective students and families, neighbors, guest speakers and lecturers, friends, and colleagues are asked not to come to campus, for the safety of our students and employees. All activities that would include these individuals – including parent conferences, PA meetings, lectures, social gatherings, and performances – will take place online.
Vendors for essential equipment, contractors for essential repairs, and delivery personnel will be allowed on campus after a negative health screening, but they will be limited to specific areas where students are not present.
SEE WHAT'S HAPPENING AT BRANSON
Do Your Part
- If you feel sick, stay home.
- Do your daily health screening.
- Wear your mask at all times.
- Wash or sanitize your hands regularly.
- Maintain 6 ft. of physical distance, inside and outside.
HAVE A QUESTION?
Contact us at
- COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, 2020-2021 School Year (CA Public Health, 1/14/21 Update)
- Student & Family COVID Safety Handbook (MHSS)
- COVID Tier 3 Decision Tree for Schools (English/Spanish)
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)
- COVID-19 in Marin County (MHHS)
- Marin County Office of Education (MCOE)
- State of California (COVID19.ca.gov)
- California Dept. of Public Health
- Marin Recovers