Fall 2021 Plans for Education

Dear Harvard Chan School Community,

We hope you are all staying well and safe. Following last week’s “return to campus” message from Deans Williams, Kim, and Hope, we are writing with further details on our planning for Fall 2021 at the Harvard Chan School.

Come fall, we expect that educational activities will be in person as much as possible. This plan is conditional on guidelines and recommendations—from the CDC, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the University, and our experts—on whether we can safely return to campus with close-to-normal density. It’s anticipated that increased vaccine availability in the coming months will enable our community to interact safely on campus during the fall semester with continued health protocols, including mask wearing and some physical distancing.

Because we expect classes to be mostly in-person, students enrolled in our residential degree programs should plan to live in the Boston-Cambridge area for the full academic year. We want students to have every opportunity to fully engage in the Harvard community. Still, uncertainty persists, and we expect an extended transition as we move deliberately and cautiously to being fully in-person. We need to be flexible as conditions require, so our fall plans include continued safety protocol measures and backup plans.

While most classes will be in-person:

  • At least some courses will be taught online, based on building density requirements and physical distancing requirements in our classrooms. In particular, our largest courses may need to be online, with smaller group activities in-person. Other courses may have asynchronous or synchronous online components.
  • We plan to offer limited online learning options for students unable to reach Boston by the start of the semester, especially international students who are unable to get visas in time. If you are a continuing international student from a country where getting a visa is anticipated to be difficult, expect to hear from us in the next couple of days. We will be gathering as much information as possible to determine how many new and continuing students have a potential impediment that may keep them away from campus in the fall, and how to plan for alternative learning options. We also encourage any international students with questions to visit the Harvard International Office (HIO) for updated information or to contact the Harvard Chan HIO Advisor, Elizabeth Capuano (elizabeth_capuano@harvard.edu). Students may also speak with Elizabeth during her Zoom Office Hours: These are walk-in question and answer sessions; appointments are not scheduled and students are seen on a first-come, first-served basis (Tuesdays, 9-11amET: Meeting ID: 914 1788 4596, Password: 502336; Thursdays, 1-3pmET: Meeting ID: 987 0398 3839, Password: 907700).
  • We might need to shift the timing of some classes to accommodate the need for physical distancing in classrooms and cleaning, and to allow use of common spaces in a staggered way.
  • We plan for degree-program classes to be prioritized for in-person learning through the end of the fall semester. Executive education will continue to offer robust online programs. This and other potential online events (e.g., colloquia or presentations) will help to reduce overlapping demands for classroom and common space usage.

As we work through this transition, we want the entire Harvard Chan community to understand that we will continue to make adjustments for maintaining the highest public health standards:

  • Our facilities operations team has worked closely with our own building experts and Environmental Health faculty to ensure that our ventilation systems, cleaning, and other COVID safety protocols meet or exceed CDC, state, and University guidelines.
  • We will likely need to continue limiting campus access to maintain a safe environment for everyone’s health. Restrictions will relax over time. For example, the semester may need to start with students, staff, and faculty seeking prior approval to enter our buildings.
  • Food in our buildings is likely to be “grab and go” (i.e., pre-made and prepackaged food) and areas for eating and drinking may be prescribed.
  • We expect that everyone on campus will continue wearing masks and participate in regular COVID-19 testing (which we expect to be provided and paid for by the university).
  • As a school of public health, we strongly encourage all members of our community to be vaccinated before coming to campus. At this time, the University is not planning to require vaccinations. You should also periodically check the Keep Harvard Healthy website for updates and policy announcements.

Thank you for your fortitude and flexibility during this challenging time. We will provide advance notice regarding specific next steps and protocols and will continue to update you as planning evolves. We know many of you have questions, so please visit the student COVID-19 FAQ page or send questions our way to help us anticipate and address potential issues. Finally, stay on the lookout for an education-specific information session to be held in mid-April.

Best regards,

Erin on behalf of the Education Planning Committee

Erin Driver-Linn, PhD 
Dean for Education  |  Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health