Dear HKS Community Members:

As Dean Elmendorf shared in his late October email message, for the coming Spring semester, health conditions permitting, we plan to offer a small number of in-person classes for a limited number of students, and we plan to let all interested students spend modest amounts of time studying and interacting on campus apart from classes. (Read his full email message here.) Many of us are hard at work laying the foundation to make that limited return to campus a reality in the hope that the state of the pandemic will allow us to do so.

In the course of that planning, we have given additional thought to this Spring’s academic calendar. Based on student input, and in accordance with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Business School, we have decided to change the Harvard Kennedy School calendar to include a handful of “academic wellness days” instead of the traditional spring break week. On the academic wellness days, no degree-program classes will be held so that students and faculty who are teaching and learning in those classes can have a restorative break—but the School will otherwise remain open and working.

This decision was based on a handful of important considerations.

First, we have heard from many students and faculty members that the demands of online learning and teaching and the many hours of Zoom instructional sessions this Fall have been exhausting and that some strategically placed days off would be a welcome academic relief. Since the spring term, unlike the fall, includes only one federal holiday, there are fewer opportunities for such academic relief unless we intentionally create them. Therefore, no degree-program classes will be held on the five designated academic wellness days in the new Spring calendar, and we expect that faculty members will avoid scheduling major assignments on those days.

Second, while the week of Spring break has traditionally provided a terrific opportunity for travel to exciting destinations, we recognize that this kind of unfettered exploration is far less feasible and advisable this year. Between the University’s travel restrictions and the Commonwealth’s policies on travel and quarantining, students and faculty members would not be able to travel this Spring and return to campus—if they wanted or needed to work on campus—in time for the resumption of classes and other activities. 

Finally, as you may be aware, both the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (which includes Harvard College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences) and Harvard Business School have announced that they are also adjusting their Spring calendars. Because we similarly expect to have some students on campus in the spring, we think it is important to proceed in a consistent manner.

As a result, the HKS calendar for this coming Spring will be as follows:

January 25          Classes start

February 5          Academic Wellness Day:  No degree-program classes meet

February 15        Presidents’ Day Holiday: No courses meet; University holiday

March 1               Academic Wellness Day:  No degree-program classes meet

March 16             Academic Wellness Day:  No degree-program classes meet

March 31             Academic Wellness Day:  No degree-program classes meet

April 15                 Academic Wellness Day:  No degree-program classes meet

April 30                 Full-term and Spring 2 classes end

May 1-4                Reading period

May 1-14             Spring semester final assessment period

We hope that you are staying safe and taking good care of yourselves and your families and friends. As we continue to plan for the Spring semester and to monitor evolving health conditions, our focus remains on two overriding objectives: to protect the health of the Kennedy School community and the Greater Boston community, and to sustain the Kennedy School’s crucial teaching and learning. 

Thank you for your collaboration in weathering this storm together. We will keep sharing updates and information as we have them.


Suzanne Cooper and Debbie Isaacson