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Plans for 2021 Fall Term


Dear JHSPH Community,

I am writing to provide an update on our plans for the fall of 2021 given the realities of a long and challenging recovery from the pandemic. Assuming continued improvements in vaccine availability and uptake over the summer and beyond, combined with improvements in public health measures and a reduced rate of community prevalence, we plan to return to something more similar to our pre-pandemic operations as described in today’s message from the University.

Fall Term Guidance for Students

Students in full-time, onsite programs should plan to come to campus for fall instruction, while anticipating that some classes and activities will be online. We recognize that some students may have difficulty traveling to Baltimore for the fall term, especially for those coming from other countries. Students who do not anticipate being able to be on campus in the fall, should reach out to their program director or academic coordinator. We are committed to being flexible and making adaptations to help them participate virtually in the fall if possible. However, it is important to understand that some courses may not be available in online or hybrid modalities.

Importantly, the University will require a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of coming to campus for all students who do not require religious or health exemptions. If students are not fully vaccinated by the beginning of first term, we will facilitate their ability to get vaccinated. We will also require an influenza vaccination when it becomes available in the fall.

Formal academic instruction by our Bloomberg School faculty will be offered in a combination of the following formats, generally adhering to their pre-pandemic modalities, with the exception that some courses with more than 50 students will likely be online.

  • Courses (of less than 50 students) taught in-person on our East Baltimore Campus. The teaching and learning environment for these courses will follow the safety guidelines discussed below.
  • Courses designed for online delivery. We have decades of experience with this approach and currently have over 300 online courses. Most of these courses offer asynchronous lectures that can be viewed when convenient, enhanced by synchronous “real time” learning experiences; the exact mix of synchronous and asynchronous activities varies by course.
  • A limited number of ‘hybrid’ courses that are taught simultaneously on-campus and online. Many of these courses will take advantage of pre-recorded lectures available to all students. Class lectures, discussions, and interactive exercises will be available both on-campus for students able to participate on site and online for others.

We believe this plan offers the greatest opportunity to convene most classes in person while recognizing we must remain diligent in following safe practices and density restrictions until such time as we reach broad herd immunity.

We remain committed to maintaining our standard of excellence in all forms of instruction. Critical to maintaining that standard of excellence is providing multiple opportunities for students to interact with faculty and with each other—whether that be on campus or in our virtual academic space. Indeed, a hallmark of a JHSPH education is the diversity and richness of our community of teachers and learners; we are steadfast in our pledge to ensure everyone benefits from that richness.

Staff and Faculty Return to Campus

We expect that many of our staff and faculty will be back on campus in person by mid-August for the start of the fall term.

We know that some would like to return sooner, and if conditions permit, we will provide opportunities to do so earlier in the summer. Also, we will continue to provide accommodations for those who are unable to return to campus due to health reasons or extenuating circumstances. Further details will be forthcoming but be assured that we will continue to follow best public health practices to keep everyone safe.

Important to a safe return will be broad COVID-19 vaccination of all members of our community. We will strongly urge our faculty and staff to get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available to them. Indeed, vaccination will likely be required for faculty and staff in the coming months for those without exemptions. We will provide an update as plans develop.

We realize that bringing our community back together in person will have its challenges and we promise to work in close collaboration with faculty and staff and their departments and units. We also know that this past year of remote work has taught us a lot; we will use our experiences to reimagine how we work together and how we use our physical space in creative new ways. We have the opportunity to build an even better workplace environment than before the pandemic and we look forward to receiving ideas as we move forward towards establishing a ‘new normal.’

Keeping Everyone Safe

With any onsite activities we will continue to follow best public health practices, including use of indoor face coverings, physical distancing consistent with best practices, hand washing, adequate ventilation of all teaching and shared office spaces, and limited COVID testing. These precautions are necessary to ensure the safety of our learners, faculty, and staff.

Of course, we are closely watching the emerging science around the vaccines and the state of the pandemic itself, including the potential effects of new COVID-19 variants. We will be ready to adjust our plans as needed, including additional restrictions or possible further relaxation of our safety measures.

As you can appreciate, making decisions in the face of continued uncertainty is challenging. We continue to work with leaders at the School and the University to identify the strategies that are in the best interest of our students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty, and staff. Delivering on the promise of a fulfilling and dynamic fall term will continue to require imagination and adaptability, which is why we welcome ideas and suggestions as we move forward.

We have set up an email account——where you can submit your specific ideas and concerns.

We have come a long way over the past year and will continue to work together, with empathy and grace, to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead.


Ellen MacKenzie Signature

Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD ’79, ScM ’75

Bloomberg Distinguished Professor
Bloomberg School of Public Health
The Johns Hopkins University