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Coronavirus Response Information

Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQs

Jump to: Balancing Dependent Care | Online Coursework and Academic Progress | Licensure Considerations | Meetings | Faculty Meetings | HGSE Staff: Working Remotely | Student Housing and Health Care | Commencement | Health Concerns | Travel

Due to Governor Baker’s emergency order, which is in effect Tuesday, March 24 at noon, campus access is restricted to essential access only. If you require access to campus and your access is essential for productively advancing teaching and learning or research activity please request building access here.  

The Harvard Graduate School of Education is working closely with colleagues across the university to coordinate and communicate accurate and timely information. Below are frequently asked questions and answers that may help to provide additional context for HGSE affiliates. You can always consult the university’s coronavirus website for additional information.

Note: This FAQ will expand in the coming days. Please check back.

Balancing Dependent Care

Q: My child’s school has been closed, and I’m worried about my ability to work at home. What should I do?

A: We understand that many faculty, staff, and students are in this situation, and many of us are faced with school and daycare closures, as well as a host of additional family-related issues, concerns about your courses and research responsibilities, and the general stress of social distancing and uncertainty. There is nothing easy about this, and it may affect the hours you can work as well as whether you can devote time and attention to all of your tasks. To the best of your ability, we encourage you to try to focus on your teaching (for faculty) and other essential work (for students and staff). However, if you are worried about how caring for dependents will affect your ability to work or the quality of your work, please be in contact so we can help you consider your options. For faculty, please contact Nonie Lesaux. For staff, please talk with your manager or Kelly Deliberato. For students, please be in touch with your course instructors and/or the Office for Student Affairs.

Online Coursework and Academic Progress

Q: For Faculty: I need to move my course instruction online. Where do I begin?

A: Visit information for faculty for all the resources you'll need and contact information to get support.

Q: I do not have strong internet access at home and will need to be online for my classes beginning March 23. What should I do?

A: To ensure that students have access to wireless internet, we have compiled the following list of resources:

  • Comcast: Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots available across the U.S. available to anyone for free, including non-Xfinity subscribers. A map of Xfinity hotspots is available here. Once at a hotspot, select the “xfinitywifi” network and launch a browser. This service is available for the next 60 days, effective March 14.
  • Spectrum: Wi-Fi hotspots open for public use. A map of Spectrum Wi-Fi hotspots is available here. This service is effective for the next 60 days, beginning March 16. Installation fees will be waived.
  • AT&T: Public Wi-Fi hotspots available to everyone. Select attwifi or att-wifi from the list of available wireless networks. This service is available for the next 60 days, effective March 14.

Note: For students who are customers of any of the above providers: Comcast, Spectrum, and AT&T are promising not to disconnect a customer’s internet or assess late fees if the customer reaches out and lets them know that they are having trouble paying their bills during this period. Flexible payment plans will be available.

A full list of low-cost internet providers can also be found here.

For class participation, Zoom can be downloaded onto any smartphone. If you do not have a computer available to you off campus, please contact to request a loaner computer.

Q: I am supposed to be graduating in May. Will this change affect my ability to earn the diploma?

A: No. We will support all HGSE students in meeting degree requirements, virtually or in-person. Your ability to complete degree requirements will not be compromised.

Q: I am scheduled to present my doctoral dissertation/capstone on campus in April. Will I still be able to do that?

A: All dissertation and capstone defenses for the May graduation cycle will transition to a virtual model. Although specific details are still being worked out, the Degree Programs Office will be working with HGSE IT to design and support a virtual model with the goal of preserving as much as possible the features of face-to-face defenses. We will be directly in touch with all students who are defending this spring, in order to discuss how best to support your needs while also ensuring access to the event for other students, community members, family, and guests. For those who have already scheduled a defense date, please continue to hold the date and time on your schedule and on your defense committee’s schedules for your defense. We will go forward with the schedule as planned.

Q: Will there be tuition refunds?

A: Given that we are continuing with instruction, we will not offer tuition refunds. We are committed to supporting students’ academic progress and the completion of their degrees. Our focus is on providing high-quality learning experiences using a variety of active learning strategies, including discussion groups, small group turn-and-talks, and virtual boards for brainstorming and working together. You will still have the ability to interact with faculty and to engage and collaborate with fellow students. We are also planning virtual supports to help provide advising related to careers and wellness. These include workshops with Career Services, brown bag lunches, engagements with HGSE alumni, and an online speaker series. Our goal is to make sure that HGSE continues to be a strong and vibrant community.

Licensure Considerations

Q: I am currently pursuing a licensure. How does the university policy impact my field placement and practica?

A: Field placements and practica are a foundational and transformative training mechanism, and HGSE remains committed to that strategy. Review the guiding principles for licensure placements for more information. 


Q: How will campus gatherings and events be impacted?

A: Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency on March 10 and then placed a statewide restriction on gatherings of more than 25 people. This directive includes all community, civic, public, leisure, and faith-based events, as well as sporting events with spectators, concerts, and conventions. We are closely adhering to this limit, and we will follow state-issued guidance in the weeks ahead. All campus buildings are closed as of Wednesday, March 18, at 2 p.m. If meetings can be held remotely, we encourage you to do so. We are also taking the idea of social distancing very seriously and urge anyone whose personal or professional obligations require groups and gatherings to keep a distance of six feet from others. Larger HGSE gatherings and events will be held remotely.

Q: Can we still hold meetings on campus?

A: All campus buildings are closed as of Wednesday, March 18, at 2 p.m. If meetings can be held remotely, we encourage you to do so. 

Q: How do I set up a virtual meeting?

A: Please refer to the Getting Ready to Work Remotely website for additional information on how to use Zoom and other online tools.

Q: Will the libraries and campus buildings remain open?

A: Given emerging public health guidance and the recent efforts undertaken by Governor Baker to slow the spread of the virus, all HGSE buildings are closed as of Wednesday, March 18, at 2 p.m. This is a change from our earlier intentions, but we are taking this action in service of our commitment to the health and well-being of our community. This step is in line with actions being taken across the university and the Commonwealth. If you require building access after this point, you may make a request with HGSE Operations

Q: Can I have office hours and student group meetings in person?

A: All courses will go virtual staring March 23, and small group meetings and office hours should also be virtual. 

Q: What is social distancing?   

A: Social distancing attempts to avoid the spread of the disease by helping you to keep a safe distance from sick people and encourages you to avoid touching surfaces that may have the virus on them. Please be sure to wash your hands, avoid touching your face, and you should sit at least six feet away from others. 

Q: How can I practice social distancing in public settings, such as public transportation?

  • Keep your distance.
  • If you can, change your commute time to a less crowded time.
  • Clean your hands as soon as possible after your trip.
  • Cleaning your hands after you touch the handlebars or any other potentially contaminated surface is probably the best strategy.
  • In addition, federal guidelines issued yesterday call for people to avoid groups of more than 10, as well as discretionary travel, bars, restaurants and food courts.

Faculty Meetings

Q: Will faculty meetings continue?

A: We will continue to move forward with our FOTW meetings and faculty committee meetings and workgroups as scheduled, but all meetings will be held virtually. Please keep all of those dates and times on your calendars and watch for further details.

For Staff: Working Remotely

Q: Is the school telling us to work remotely?

A: We will be closing all HGSE buildings as of Wednesday, March 18, at 2 p.m. This is a change from our earlier intentions, but we are taking this action in service of our commitment to the health and well-being of our community. This step is in line with actions being taken across the university and the Commonwealth. Staff will be asked to work remotely in nearly all cases and will be hearing from Kelly DeLiberato with further guidance. 

Q: I can work remotely but want to support my colleagues who must work on campus too.

A: Wanting to support those in a time such as this is such a hallmark of our community. Public health officials tell us that one of the best ways to support our community inside and outside of HGSE is to stay home if you are sick, work remotely if possible and your role allows you to, and to practice social distancing where you can. All these efforts are undertaken to help prevent the spread of the virus. The sentiment is so appreciated, and one of the best ways to show to support to your colleagues who must work on campus is to help de-densify spaces; one of the best ways to do that is work remotely if you can. This approach also supports our commitment to doing what we can for the common good of Harvard and our communities beyond, something our community of faculty, students, and staff strives to do.

Q: I must care for young or elder dependents because of closured related to COVID-19. Can I still work from home?

A: Yes. Harvard has relaxed its policies during this time related to working remotely with dependent care issues. If you have need to care for others, consider talking with your manager about flexing your hours as you are able and your role permits. You may be able to do work early in the morning and then again over the course of the day/evening to work your full daily schedule.

Excerpt from Harvard Workplace Policies:

Employees may use paid family and dependent care sick time to care for immediate family and household members who are not ill but need care due to any COVID-19 related closures of schools or daycare centers, or for other breakdowns in care arrangements. (Normally, Harvard’s flexible work guidelines prohibit remote workers from simultaneously caring for dependent family members. Those guidelines are being relaxed in these extraordinary circumstances.) Employees may not bring affected children or elders to work with them, even if the children or elders are well.

  • If not working in order to actively care for dependents or household members – use dependent care sick time
  • If working remotely with relatively self-sufficient dependents or household members at home due to COVID-19 disruptions – no need to report the use of paid time off

Student Housing and Health Care

Q: If I live in Harvard University Housing, do I need to move out?

A: As described in President Bacow’s email, Harvard University is requiring undergraduate students to vacate the campus dormitories. Graduate students in GSAS dormitories and Cronkhite Center have the option to stay in graduate housing — with the caveat that the University may ask students to relocate to a different room or unit in effort to slow the spread of COVID19. Students living in Harvard Housing with questions about lease termination should contact the leasing office at 617-495-1459. The HGSE Office of Student Affairs is also available to help students understand their options for the remainder of the semester.

Q: Should I go home?

A: This is a personal and individual decision. Based on the guidance provided by the university, you may choose to leave Cambridge. Please consider where you can be supported and still devote energy to your academic progress. Regardless of your location, we will still support you, and we are still committed to supporting your academic progress from a distance to the completion of your courses. For doctoral students, all dissertation and capstone defenses for the May graduation cycle will be held virtually.

Q: I rely on the Gutman Cafe for meals. What are other options?

A: We recognize that closing Gutman Cafe as of Wednesday, March 18, at 2 p.m. can present challenges regarding access to food options. There is an active list of Boston restaurants continuing to offer takeout and delivery; UberEats has also waived all delivery fees. Students in Harvard residential halls will receive additional guidance about food options. Should you have questions or need support, advice, or guidance on ensuring continued access to food options, please contact the Office of Student Affairs.

Q: Will my Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) work if I am away from the university?

We are committed to making sure you receive the care you need while you are away from campus. Due to the extraordinary circumstances that we are all facing, we have implemented benefit changes to your student health insurance plan. Please review the university’s FAQs, which addresses these benefit changes.


Q: What are the plans for Commencement?

A: Following President Bacow's announcement that Harvard’s 369th Commencement Exercises will be postponed, Dean Long announced her commitment to celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2020 — with planning underway now. We understand you may have many questions about the postponement and invite you to explore these FAQs from the Office of Student Affairs. 

Health Concerns

Q: What if I might have come into contact with a person who may have COVID-19?

A: We encourage you to email Harvard University Health Services for advice and guidance. HUHS clinical staff and medical professionals are best equipped to offer advice based on factors such as how direct or indirect the contact was, travel or exposure to travelers, health history, and symptoms.

Q: I am feeling pretty overwhelmed and stressed. What can I do?

A: Many of us are facing challenges with school and daycare closures, as well as a host of additional family-related issues, concerns about your courses and research responsibilities, and the general stress of social distancing and uncertainty. There is nothing easy about this. All of us will be faced with difficult choices and stressful days in the weeks ahead. I hope you will not hesitate to reach out with any questions or to let us know what’s on your minds. Students can always find support of any kind by emailing OSA, or by signing up for a Calendly appointment on the OSA website. Faculty can contact Nonie Lesaux for assistance. Staff can be in touch with their managers and/or with Kelly DeLiberato to discuss individual circumstances.


Q: If I have international travel planned prior to April 30 to a country that is not currently considered Level 3, should I still travel?

A: If the travel is university-sponsored, you are prohibited from travel. If the travel is of a personal nature, you are discouraged from doing so. Please note that you may be asked to complete a confidential health form and/or be asked to self-isolate upon your return. This is a rapidly evolving situation and the rules that stand when you leave may not be the rules in place when you return. Review Harvard Global Support Services’ (GSS) international travel guidance for more information.

Q: I have a domestic flight already planned and scheduled prior to April 30. Should I still go?

A: Currently, all university-related nonessential domestic air travel is prohibited until April 30. We strongly urge extreme caution and judgment for your personal domestic travel, regardless of your destination, mode of transportation, or planned length of stay.

Q: What is considered "essential" travel?

A: Faculty, staff, and students may seek advice and counsel on travel from Nonie Lesaux, Kelly DeLiberato, and the Office of Student Affairs, respectively. In most cases, conferences are not considered essential travel, and most organizations have elected to cancel their face-to-face meetings.

Q: I am an international student. Should I return to my home country?

A: This is a personal and individual decision. Whether or not you decide to remain in the area, we will do our best to support you during your studies. The Office of Student Affairs will provide support in person and through Zoom, regardless of your location. For questions about your individual circumstances, please contact the Office of Student Affairs at