It’s fair to say the 2020-2021 school year broke new ground for all of us here at The Branch School. We instituted new health and safety protocols necessitated by COVID-19 and developed a hybrid learning model that allowed students to thrive in-person here on campus or as virtual learners at home. It was A LOT of change with little room for error, a rapid implementation made possible by the creative thinking and can-do spirit of our goodhearted and tireless faculty.
We’re excited to all be back in person this school year after creating policies to once again allow Branch students to enjoy their school experience. We’re grateful to be able to have sports offerings as well as other programs our families value and cherish, including band class! Arriving at the moment when we will again hear our band in concert will indeed be music to our ears.
Because Branch offers rolling enrollment, we had many new families find their way to us and apply in the past months. Our new enrollees are often families new to the area who were unable to begin the process earlier, as well as families who have decided to seek a more personalized academic experience or our COVID-19 mitigation policies for their children. Some come from larger school settings and have recognized their children’s needs may be better met in our smaller-scaled environment. These parents learn, often from neighbors and friends who recommend us as one of Houston’s top private schools, that smaller doesn’t mean less or indicate fewer opportunities. Rather, Branch is perfectly scaled to offer students:
- more one-on-one time with teachers to pursue a topic more deeply or get on top of especially challenging content
- greater opportunities for middle schoolers to develop their leadership skills so they’re ready to dive right in when they enter high school
- more “extended family”-like experiences, where younger students see the older ones as trusted friends and role models, and older students develop a greater sense of responsibility in response.
If you’re a parent in search of the right placement for your child, we encourage you to contact us at your earliest convenience. We look forward to getting to know you and your child and to outlining the financial aid that may be available to you.
Yes, it’s been a demanding year and we’re deep into preparing for what comes next. And on the heels of all those challenges, we are embracing another one.
And it’s a big one.
On August 23, 2021, our long-awaited campus expansion began. We broke ground on a new LEED Silver certified building, one that will house the Hightower Middle School and expand art, music, and tech class space for Lower School students. Kirksey Architecture, a Texas-based firm with deep experience in creating inspired K-12 learning spaces, met with our students to hear their ideas of what they’d love to see and what would serve them well. Kirksey also incorporated input from Branch faculty on features that support our pedagogical approach and curriculum. Beyond the more conventional classrooms, labs, and libraries, today’s students require gathering spaces to support collaborative project work. They need spaces with embedded technology to support effective communication as they conduct online research, consult a scientist several states away, or develop prototypes or digital presentations they’ll share with classmates. Gone are the days of desks in rows; today’s learners require flexible seating that allows easy moves from big group to small group work. Kirksey’s vast experience in constructing K-12 school buildings means that the new building will be an innovative, intentional space designed around the best thinking in teaching and learning.
Kirksey Architecture has a tradition of planting trees in honor of their clients. Rather than offer gifts to celebrate the close of a project, Kirksey employees and their families gather one weekend every year to put trees in the ground – more than 11,000 of them in the past 34 years. Given Branch's commitment to environmental education, our partnership with Kirksey seems like the best kind of fit.
In the coming months, we will update our community on construction progress. We expect construction to be completed in time for the middle schoolers to move into the new space in 2022.
Robbin Mills is the Director of Advancement and Human Resources at The Branch School. She is a graduate of the University of Texas with a BBA in Business Management.