After Months Away, Branson Returns to In-Person Classes

Branson students and their teachers haven’t been all together on campus since March 12. After several on-campus health safety protocol trainings last week, students, faculty, and staff finally returned to their beloved campus on Monday, October 19 for classes. 

While many Branson familiarities were here to welcome our community back – crunchy leaves underfoot, the outline of Mt. Tam beyond the trees, the cool morning air giving way to a warm October afternoon – much has also changed around campus. 

Campus was fully transformed, looking in some ways more like an academic summer camp than a school. Students, seated on camping chairs and picnic tables, learned outside under the 27 blue tents now dotting campus. Branson is fortunate to have a sprawling 17-acres, and every corner has been put to use. Outdoor classrooms can be found everywhere from the academic quad and the Tom Ryan Athletics Field to under the blue spruce tree. 

Assisted by new technologies, such as camera equipment and voice amplifiers, teachers adjusted their classes to outdoor settings. Many classes had both in-person and distance learners and teachers, as the new hybrid model is designed to best serve everyone. Students, faculty, and staff could be seen following Covid-19 safety protocols, such as mask-wearing, physical distancing, and completion of a daily health survey. 

At lunch time, students and teachers munched on a delicious meal all across campus. To accommodate social distancing protocols, the incredible Epicurean kitchen staff, in collaboration with the facilities team, have created an entirely new lunch system where meals are delivered in reusable to-go containers to each class. Despite having to completely rethink and redesign operations, the fare remained as scrumptious as ever.

While students and teachers navigated a changed environment, clear joy emanated across campus as the community reconnected with each other and the campus. And most importantly, the learning continued! In Heather Duncan’s Microbiology and Infectious Disease class, students performed a gram stain lab to differentiate between bacteria and determine their shape under microscopes. Conversations in English and history classes continued with gusto and Spanish students ran cross the field in a game of red light green light.

While things are still far from “normal,” Branson is overjoyed to welcome its students back. With maintained team effort, the Branson community can continue to keep each other safe and lean into the undertaking of learning, growing, and adapting together.