Coronavirus alters the high school experience for freshmen

By Molly Biggs

In the November ABC cycle, the freshmen had the opportunity to meet each other in person for the first time. Starting in remote learning and finally transitioning to much anticipated on-campus learning, the class of 2024 has had an experience like no other freshman class before.

With the whole school in assigned cohorts, the format of classes this year is different from that of the previous Branson experience. This especially impacts freshmen, who haven’t gotten a chance to meet other students outside their classes. For the students who don’t know many people coming into Branson, this presents a challenge.

“You can’t mix cohorts or be within 6 feet, so you can’t know people in your sports or clubs.” said freshman Josie Hohenrieder.

Clubs, affinities and sports have always been a large part of the Branson culture. This year, the absence of those concrete spaces can be felt across the entire community. In previous years, many freshmen have used those spaces to form friendships between grades. This year, students and teachers have had to adjust, continuing those activities on Zoom. 

“When you’re put in breakout rooms, you don’t have very much time to talk personally one on one,” Hohenrieder said, “which makes it hard to connect.”

Although extracurricular activities will have to remain remote for a while, in person academics have been off to a great start. Seeing each other’s real faces can be a game-changer when it comes to academic learning. With Zoom, sometimes it can be a struggle to keep up the energy when everyone’s so distant.

“On Zoom if they don’t have something to say, people just turn off their mics or turn off their cameras, whereas in person you can just have a conversation,” Hohenrieder said.

Those little moments of socialization can go a long way, as the Branson community realized last spring after school closure. Fortunately, on campus learning has allowed for that warmth to return. 

When asked about her favorite part of school so far, she agreed. “Definitely meeting new kid,” she said. “The ones I’ve met are so kind and welcoming, even from other grades.”

While 2020 has been a hectic year, the Branson faculty and staff have been working tirelessly to create the best school experience possible. From Zoom learning to in-person classes, teachers have had to make all kinds of adjustments to accommodate the unforeseen circumstances.

Regarding the upcoming year, Hohenrieder described herself as: “Really excited! It’s awesome that we can go back in person given what’s going on.”