Spring semester plans

November 2, 2020

Dear Johns Hopkins Community: 

We write today to share news about our spring semester. With a mix of cautious optimism, careful preparation, and strong desire to convene on our campuses, we are planning to resume in-person, on-campus academic and residential offerings this spring to the greatest extent possible.  

Our plans are shaped by your tremendous efforts to date to carry out our education, research, and clinical missions safely, as well as the guidance of public health experts at Johns Hopkins and nationally, and the best practices of those peer institutions that have successfully returned to campus this fall. They rest on continued strict adherence to public health guidelines, significant de-densification of our facilities, and a widening of our testing program and requirements.

Like so many of you, we also are watching closely the pandemic’s trends as we head into the high-travel holiday, winter, and flu seasons and see the continued strain of COVID around the country and the world. We will continue to monitor its course and impact on our communities as we prepare—with hope, determination, and prudence—to come together this spring, and we will confirm in January, if not sooner, whether our plans can be carried out safely based on the public health conditions at that time. 

Importantly, our return is predicated upon our continued dedication to keeping one another and the broader Baltimore community safe and healthy. Our experiences so far suggest that we can accomplish both aims; to date we have experienced no known COVID transmissions in our reopened research labs and no significant outbreaks among the thousands of our students who have been in Baltimore. 

Our students led the way this fall in creating a social compact of mutual responsibility for abiding by public health guidelines, and our low transmission rate is a testament to their commitment. As we look to significantly expand our activities for the spring, we will be asking the entire university community to join this compact. 

As always, we want to hear your feedback and answer any questions you may have, including via our online feedback portal and in our regular town halls. We welcome all faculty, students, and staff to a Spring Planning town hall at 11:30 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 9. An additional town hall focused on undergraduates will be held at 4 p.m on Wednesday, Nov. 4. 

Full details about our spring plans will be provided in early December in an updated JHU Return to Campus Guide. We will also update the community regularly on our Coronavirus Information website. In the meantime, below are the key elements of our plans.    

Academic Schedule and Classes

As long as the public health situation allows, undergraduate students will be permitted, but not required, to return to campus for classes and research activities for the spring semester. Most of our graduate divisions are also planning to resume some portion of their own on-campus activities and will provide more details to their schools in the coming days.  

Faculty and students will continue to have flexibility and choice about class modalities, and students who do not return to campus will have options for continuing their academic progress remotely. Course offerings will include a mix of in-person and online/remote classes. On-campus instruction will be conducted in classrooms prepared for distancing, ensuring at least 6 feet between students and instructors. Undergraduate tuition for the spring semester will be at the standard full-time rate of $28,505, which is already reflected in financial aid awards.

We are also modifying our academic calendar to remove spring break owing to public health concerns associated with travel. Classes will start on January 25 as originally planned, but the weeklong spring break (March 22–26) will be replaced with five break days throughout the semester. Registration details will be forthcoming from each school this week. 

COVID Testing and Other Health and Safety Protocols 

We will continue to require strict adherence to proven public health protocols, including masking, physical distancing, and handwashing. In addition, we will be significantly expanding our current COVID testing program.  

Across Johns Hopkins University, testing will be available to all, and required of many, starting in January.

Testing protocols 

  • Those who are experiencing COVID symptoms or who may have been exposed to someone with the COVID virus should call the Johns Hopkins COVID Call Center (443-287-8500).
  • Optional free testing will be available on a weekly basis for all asymptomatic affiliates who are on campus.  
  • Testing will be required twice weekly for all undergraduates living on or off campus in the Baltimore area. 
  • Testing will be required at least once weekly for faculty, staff, and graduate students who are participating in or directly supporting in-person, on-campus classes (with exceptions for clinically based instruction) or who are regularly exposed to undergraduates.
  • The divisions may also designate for required testing any faculty, staff, or graduate students who are deemed to have a heightened risk of exposure.
  • Testing will be available and/or required for faculty, staff, and students who are asked to quarantine due to exposure on campus, or who were working or learning in the same enclosed space (e.g., classroom or lab) at the same time as someone who tests positive.
  • Testing will be available and/or required for our contract workers, vendors, and necessary visitors.
  • More information and detailed guidelines for testing will be available in December, including test collection locations on all campuses and instructions for how to make testing appointments and receive test results.

General Health and Safety Protocols 

  • All affiliates coming to campus will be required to use the ProDensity app for test results and to monitor symptoms before being cleared to be on campus. 
  • The university will continue the de-densification of classrooms, labs, libraries, research facilities, dining halls, and other common areas. 
  • Gatherings of more than 10 people will be prohibited on campus and for students living off campus.
  • We will continue our practice of enhanced cleaning, particularly in high-touch areas, as well as increased air exchange and filtration 24/7 in all facilities. 

As we proceed throughout the fall and into the spring, you will see an increasing number of university Safety Ambassadors on campus to provide information on our health and safety measures and ensure adherence to established health protocols, including required use of ProDensity. 

Undergraduate Housing

In all, we expect to have 1,200 undergraduates returning to campus in addition to the 2,000 currently residing in Baltimore, primarily in Charles Village. All first-year students who choose to come to campus will be housed in the dorms. Given the results of a recent student survey, we are optimistic that we also will be able to accommodate all second-year students who expressed an interest in living in JHU housing. Those second-year students who wish to live off campus may do so, and our student affairs team is here to provide housing support. 

On-campus residential options will reflect reduced density (single occupancy bedrooms with limited sharing of bathroom facilities), and we are setting aside a substantial number of quarantine and isolation accommodations for residential students as well as isolation accommodations for any undergraduates living off campus who need them. 

Gradual Restart of Campus Operations 

The phased restart of campus operations has been underway for some time, with labs and clinical operations leading the way, and will be expanding gradually over the next several months. Earlier this week, we announced an increase in the allowable density for labs, libraries, and some offices, based on demonstrated need, effective November 1, which brings us on par with peers and will allow for the further resumption of research. For more detailed information, please look for a communication from your school and refer to the research resumption guidelines

For the most part, staff who are currently working remotely will continue to do so in order to keep density low on our campuses. Only those needed on campus to support in-person research and academic activities will return. Divisional- and department-specific plans for staff are being developed now, and managers will provide adequate notice to those staff who should return. Human Resources stands ready to support anyone who requires accommodations or adjustments. 

For now, all other Phase 1 guidelines remain in effect. These include our current protocols and policies on testing, travel, visitors, and gatherings and events, outlined in our Return to Campus Guidance

Looking Ahead Safely 

While the pandemic continues its prolonged and uncertain path, we are guided by our foundational commitment to put health and safety first. In our decision making, we will continue to examine a matrix of factors and data, and we are grateful for the frequent and ongoing input of our public health experts and our faculty and student advisory bodies, including the University Pandemic Academic Advisory Committee, the Health Advisory Group, and the Student Advisory Committee. We will also continue to look to our peers for advice and best practices even as we develop plans that serve the unique needs of Johns Hopkins and Baltimore. 

The fall semester has been an extraordinarily strong and productive one despite the odds. We have all of you to thank for making it so, and we will be counting on your commitment to one another and to those we live, learn, and work alongside in Baltimore as we look forward to a safe and successful return to campus this spring. 


Ronald J. Daniels 

Sunil Kumar 
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Mary Miller
Interim Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration