How Branson faculty and students are coping with the new schedule


By Reese Dahlgren

With the first three-week rotation of the new schedule wrapped up, Branson faculty and students have felt the impact of online school on their mental health and expressed mixed feelings about the distance learning plan.

The new weekly class schedule consists of four days of academic classes and one day of online school without regular classes. Each day has three main classes that are 90 minutes long with a 45-minute lunch break between blocks. Many members of the Branson community have shared their current opinions on the schedule as the next rotation of classes begins.

“It’s too much,” Heather Duncan, a science teacher, said about online class and its effect on her daughters. “I see the amount of screen time they’re getting with some of their classes — it’s hard.”

Duncan said that while she tries to give her students as much time off of Zoom as she can, they still remain on the computer for the majority of class doing assignments and lab work.

“Everything is on the computer, whether it’s doing research or a virtual lab,” Duncan said. “It’s just a long-haul mentally.”

Amanda Morris, a junior, said that although she doesn’t mind the three-week rotation, staying engaged and motivated for an entire ninety minute class takes a lot of energy.

“I kind of like the three-week rotation. I get new classes — it’s a fresh start that keeps your brain stimulated. Three classes are manageable, but ninety minutes isn’t,” she said.

Morris also said, “Being online, people don’t want to engage in class as much because it feels like you’re talking to a wall instead of a group of people.”

As part of the new schedule, each grade was split into separate cohorts of students that are in the same rotation of classes. Only students in the same cohort can be in a class together, which proves difficult for Sabrina Hwang, a freshman, who has not met her entire grade in person yet.

“I don’t have classes with a lot of people within my six classes, so I still don’t know a lot of my grade,” Hwang said. “If someone asks me if I know someone who goes to Branson, most of the time I say that I don’t know.”

In addition to the schedule change, Branson seniors are in the midst of writing college applications and essays while also balancing their rigorous online classes. Senior Lawrence Bancroft said that he appreciates Wednesday as an online day to work on college applications and take a break from classes.

“While life is hectic with college apps and school, there’s much more time to relax,” Bancroft said. “No classes on Wednesday is a blessing. I can focus on college apps and it’s just super considerate.”

Theater classes have been progressing well in the new schedule, according to Maura Vaughn, the theatre director. Vaughn said that she allows her acting students to go on and off of Zoom to help them stay engaged and eager to participate in class activities.

“In my class, we don’t have 90 minutes of Zoom,” Vaughn said. “But you could tell that the Beginning Acting students didn’t want to go yet since they were having so much fun.”

Students have proposed some changes to the schedule as well, specifically regarding the forty-five minute lunch breaks.

Morris said, “I think lunch should be at least an hour. I wish I had ten minutes to mentally check out and prepare myself for the next class.”

Bancroft agreed with Morris and said that lunch time should be extended, especially after long classes.