Plans for the fall 2021 semester

April 9, 2021

Dear Johns Hopkins Community, 

We are writing to share our plans for the staged return of activity back to our campuses, with the hope and expectation that the university will be substantially back to normal this fall.  

Our plans are predicated on continuing public health strategies to promote a safe campus and community. However, with increases in vaccine availability and distribution, we are now able to add vaccination as a critical component to our campus safety plan. 

The pandemic continues to present unpredictable challenges, and we will monitor state and local COVID-related restrictions to ensure that our operations abide by them. If we have to scale back our plans to protect the public’s health on our campuses and in our surrounding communities, we will do so.  

In the meantime, below are the key elements of our fall plans. 

Vaccination

As you know, multiple vaccines (from Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson) have been demonstrated to provide high levels of protection against the COVID virus with reports of only minimal and brief side effects following administration. Thankfully, vaccine supply shortages have eased. The United States is now vaccinating more than 4 million people a day, and more than 100 million Americans have already received at least one vaccine dose. And this week, Governor Hogan announced that all adults in Maryland will be eligible to receive the vaccine starting April 12. If the pace of current vaccination continues, we expect that every member of our community will be able to be vaccinated over the next few months. 

Given the importance of mass vaccination in protecting our community, we will require all students coming or returning to our campuses this fall, and who do not require religious or health exemptions, to be vaccinated. We strongly urge, and may soon require, all faculty and staff to be vaccinated as well. 

We will seek to facilitate opportunities for students who are unable to get vaccinated in their home jurisdictions to be vaccinated when they arrive on campus, and we are working to make on-campus vaccination available for all members of our community. Ensuring that the overwhelming percentage of our community’s population is vaccinated will greatly reduce the risk of the virus’s spread on our campuses and will also protect our neighbors in Baltimore. 

We encourage all campus members interested in learning more about the science of the vaccine to visit Johns Hopkins Medicine’s COVID-19 Vaccine Safety website.  

We are in the process of establishing a system for JHU affiliates to register their vaccination status, so you should retain documentation when you are vaccinated. Registration will be required for students, and we will urge faculty and staff to voluntarily report their status to help us determine the appropriate level of public health protections over the summer and fall. More information on the registration process will be available in the coming weeks. 

Fall 2021 Academic Schedule, Classes, and Housing and Dining

As always, offerings will vary by division, but on the whole, we anticipate a broad resumption of in-person classes for our undergraduate, professional, and graduate students this fall.  

For undergraduates, most classes previously taught in person will return to that modality. Large (50 person-plus) classes will generally be taught in online/remote modality or broken into smaller sections for public health, and in some cases, pedagogical, reasons. The Peabody Institute may implement special protocols for some performance classes as needed. Course modalities are being updated for fall registration to begin in mid-April and may be further refined as planning continues over the summer. 

Attendance by both students and faculty will be required in programs that are ordinarily conducted in person, except in cases where individuals receive accommodations for the fall semester through the Office of Institutional Equity or Student Disability Services. We recognize that international students may continue to experience disruptions in their plans to travel to Baltimore; program directors and advising services will work with those students to help identify opportunities for them to continue to make progress in their studies, but hybrid options will not be available in all classes.  

We plan to increase the density in our residence halls to near-normal capacity, and we are reinstating the residency requirement for sophomores in addition to maintaining it for first-year students for fall 2021. We also expect to resume in-person dining on campus in a de-densified environment.  

Staff Return to Campus

Regular in-person contact among faculty, students, and staff is fundamental to the vitality of our university. The presence of our staff in Baltimore is also critical to our role as an economic anchor in the city, and we are anxious to reconvene as a community as quickly and safely as we can. We also recognize that our collective return may look different from our past “normal” and must incorporate the lessons learned over the past year about balancing work, home life, and well-being.   

As conditions improve, we are looking forward to and planning for the majority of our staff and faculty to return to campus in person by mid-August for the start of the semester.  

Exceptions will be made in cases where staff members have received accommodations through the Office of Institutional Equity or had pre-COVID alternative work arrangements. We are mindful that for many, the resumption of in-person work may be affected by whether your K-12 children return to in-person school and other COVID-related child care and caregiving obligations, and we will work closely with units to address these issues as they arise. We also know that some of you would like to return sooner, and we will provide opportunities to do so earlier in the summer.  

As always, there may be discrete areas and roles where more flexible work arrangements are best, and we anticipate differences between business units or functions in what the return to in-person work looks like. We, like many organizations, are thinking deeply about the future of work, and university leadership will take a considered and consultative approach to our long-term policies guided by clearly articulated principles that are informed by research, deliberation, and data. We will convene a staff working group to collaborate with our deans, staff members, and consultative bodies such as the University Pandemic Academic Advisory Committee to develop those guidelines and templates for various work arrangements and share those with the community in the next few weeks. 

COVID Testing and Other Health and Safety Protocols

We will continue to follow the best advice of public health experts with respect to our health and safety protocols, with specific details to come as we get closer to the fall semester. At this time, we are planning for:   

  • The continuation of enhanced cleaning and increased air exchange and filtration 24/7 in all facilities  
  • Continued capacity for high-volume asymptomatic COVID testing in the fall, with details on required testing frequency to be determined  
  • Continued testing and contact tracing through the Johns Hopkins COVID Call Center for those with symptoms or meaningful contact with a COVID-positive person  
  • Availability of isolation housing for undergraduates   
  • Use of face coverings with specific guidelines determined by public health conditions closer to the fall start  
  • Required flu vaccination   

Moving Forward

Your feedback on our plan for fall 2021 is important to us, and we hope to hear from you and to answer any questions you may have via the JHU online feedback portal and in a town hall planned for next week, with details to be announced shortly via the Hub and the JHU Coronavirus Information website. We will publish an updated JHU Return to Campus Guide by the end of April, with some additional details to be decided based on public health conditions at the end of the summer. We will also update the community regularly at covidinfo.jhu.edu/

We know that the months ahead will present further challenges, and our return to greater in-person activity will require adjustments—for us as individuals and as an institution—as we renew the connections to one another in this new environment that are core to our university’s mission now and for the future.  

We appreciate everything you continue to do to keep one another and our Baltimore community safe and thriving, and we look forward to seeing you all back on campus this fall.  

Sincerely, 

Ronald J. Daniels 
President 

Sunil Kumar 
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs 

Mary Miller 
Interim Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration 

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