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January 8, 2021

As promised in my message from fall, I write today to confirm Peabody’s plans for a careful resumption of some in-person activities as scheduled for the spring semester. This decision, made in close consultation with Johns Hopkins’ leadership and public health experts, is driven by a thorough assessment of the COVID pandemic and shaped by our extensive preparations to keep the Peabody community and our Baltimore neighbors safe.

Together with the University, we are closely monitoring the pandemic’s continuing impact, locally and nationally, mindful of the possibility of a post-holiday spike in infections and the emergence of new strains of the virus. Nonetheless, there are reasons for cautious optimism. The post-Thanksgiving surge did not materialize in our area to the extent feared. Further, our experience this fall, as well as those of peer institutions that conducted on-campus activities, clearly indicates that COVID infection can be managed in a conservatory community with proper procedures, precautions, and a mutual commitment to each other’s health and safety.

With everyone’s shared commitment and dedication to following best practices in containing the spread of the virus, and the added support of a robust, broad-based, University-wide COVID testing program, we believe we can prudently and safely move to a more fulsome on-campus experience at this time.

As we announced in the fall, we are planning a hybrid semester that offers as much in-person instruction as is feasible, while continuing the remote experience across various areas of instruction, and for those unable to return to campus. All Peabody Conservatory students in all programs, both undergraduate and graduate, are invited to return to campus under this hybrid plan for the spring semester. Students who either choose to remain at home or for whom traveling to Peabody is not possible can continue to pursue a completely remote program.

Academics

Peabody classes and lessons will begin as scheduled, remotely, on January 25, with move-in and orientation for undergraduates living on campus beginning on January 21. In-person activities will begin on January 25 for Dance students and on February 1 for all others, and will focus on performance-related activities including applied lessons, chamber music and other ensembles, and technique courses, with strict adherence to distancing and room density protocols. Some lab-based courses in Music Engineering and Technology will also have an in-person component.

Most academic courses will remain in a remote format in order to limit larger gatherings and minimize density on campus; all students, whether on campus or not, will take these courses remotely. In addition, some members of the faculty will not be able to be on campus due to virus-related restrictions and will continue to teach remotely.

In keeping with recommendations for limiting travel during the pandemic, the academic calendar has been modified to replace the week-long Spring Break with five break days interspersed throughout the second half of the semester. Audition Week will take place as planned (February 14-19); large ensemble and chamber music activities will continue throughout Audition Week and current students who have returned to campus will be expected to remain on campus. 

Housing & Dining

In order to safely welcome students back to campus life and enhance everyone’s ability to observe social distancing guidelines, all student residential rooms will be single-occupancy for the spring semester, with limited and controlled sharing of bathroom facilities. Freshmen have received priority for on-campus housing, and sophomores are released from the residency requirement. Sophomores with concerns about securing off-campus housing should be in touch with Student Affairs.

Peabody’s dining plan for the spring is focused on a grab-and-go model for students living in Peabody housing.

In addition, appropriate spaces have been identified and set aside for isolation and quarantine protocols should those become necessary.

Testing

When you return to campus, you will find in place a robust program for COVID testing. Testing will be available to all, and required of many, with the potential to increase or expand required testing based on real-time positivity rates, participation rates, and public health conditions in Maryland and D.C. Testing protocols at Peabody will include the collection and testing of saliva samples on our Mt. Vernon campus.

Students must receive at least two COVID tests that are 48 hours apart prior to the start of classes, and all students will be required to participate in mandatory testing twice per week. Off-campus students may begin their testing starting on January 11. Residential students will be tested upon arrival during the designated move-in period of January 21 and 22 before they can move into their assigned room, and will need to get their second test 48 hours after their arrival test.

Testing will also be required once weekly for faculty and staff who are working on campus, as well as for contract workers, vendors, and necessary visitors. Twice weekly testing is available to on-campus faculty and staff who request it. Optional, free testing will also be available on a weekly basis for all asymptomatic affiliates who are not on campus. Faculty traveling to Maryland from out of state are advised to note the specific testing and/or quarantine protocols for their home state.

As always, 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 (833-546-7546).

Other Health & Safety Protocols

We will continue to require strict adherence to proven public safety protocols including masking, physical distancing, and hand washing. For instrument-specific guidance around studio lessons and ensemble classes, please read the Conservatory’s detailed return-to-campus guidance for applied instruction at peabody.jhu.edu/campusguidance. These protocols have been developed with input from the university’s leading health experts to ensure the safety of our community.

Daily health monitoring using ProDensity will continue to be required for those on campus. Please note that influenza vaccination is also required for all affiliates who will be on campus. The JHU Return to Campus Guidance contains more detail about testing, quarantine and isolation, and other university-wide public health measures.

To reduce the risk of the virus’ spread, some alterations have been made to the campus, including signage reinforcing the need to remain physically distant from each other, enhanced ventilation in our buildings, and specially-outfitted low-latency rooms for vocalists. With the guidance of JHU public health professionals, we are ensuring that common areas and teaching spaces are cleaned and disinfected appropriately with time between scheduled activities for rooms to rest. The practice room reservation system introduced this fall will continue to be in place for individual practice and for small, masked chamber groups.

Undergirding all of these efforts will be our sustained commitment to keeping one another and the broader Baltimore community safe and healthy. To that end, a dedicated group of students, faculty, and staff has worked to develop the Johns Hopkins Social Compact, a document outlining our mutual responsibility to each other to follow all best practices for preventing the spread of COVID. Peabody’s leadership is deeply committed to the principles and requirements of this compact, and I urge you to pledge your support as well.

It is not yet clear what role, if any, the university will play in vaccinating faculty, students, and staff, but we will continue to communicate with you as plans develop. We are hopeful about the potential for the vaccine to bring the COVID pandemic under control, but our plans for this semester do not rely on it.

Moving Forward

We know that many of you are eager to return to campus, particularly for your lessons and other applied areas of your studies as performing artists. We also recognize the continued apprehension that attends daily living during this time and the heightened anxiety that comes along with many discipline-specific concerns.

There will be many questions, which we will begin to address at virtual town hall meetings planned for students on Thursday, January 14, at 3:30 pm, and for faculty on Wednesday, January 13, at 1:00 pm. Invitations to these events will be sent separately.

As we have from the outset, we will always put the health and safety of our community first. There will be difficult days ahead as we continue to struggle to contain this pandemic, and if we have to change our plans based on public health considerations, we will. But I believe that if we all devote ourselves to careful adherence to best practices and the well-being of our colleagues, friends, and neighbors, we can complete the spring semester safely together.