Students were treated to a welcome surprise this Wednesday when Rebecca Sykes, Associate Head of School, announced that All-School Meetings would be replaced by a weekly free period for the month of February and the first week of March. The suspension of All-School Meetings, which Sykes dubbed the “February Freeze,” will last from February 10 until the end of winter term. The announcement, which was met with cheers from students, followed a school-wide email from Carlos Hoyt, Associate Dean of Students and All-School Meeting Coordinator, who promised a “surprise announcement” at Wednesday’s ASM. The decision came to fruition after Hoyt and other administrators discussed possible ways to reduce stress among the student body. “At one point last year we were trying to find an effective way to achieve two sleep-in days. We wanted to somehow free up All-School Meeting for a while at the hardest time of year,” Hoyt said. In her announcement, Sykes said that she hopes students will be able to use the time to relax and lose some of the stress caused by a tough winter term. “The idea originated in the Community Health Team as a way to give everyone in the community a bit of time in the hectic Winter Term. The hope is that we will use the period as a stress release and for catching up,” said Sykes. Hoyt said, “We learned from [Richard Keller, School Physician] that the four weeks we are targeting are those during which we see the most sickness and fatigue. I don’t think it’s a big enough change to say that if sickness goes down, the February Freeze caused it, but it certainly may help.” “This idea was discussed with the faculty, Academic Council and Student Council, the Community Health Team and many other members of the community,” Hoyt continued. “The broader context of the decision is that we often talk about stress, and the pace of life at this school.” “In a way, the Freeze will serve the same function as All-School Meeting since it aims, in a different way, to foster a healthy community,” he added. According to Hoyt, budget issues and the school’s current economic situation did not play a role in the decision to eliminate ASM during February. Hoyt said that he hopes students, faculty and clubs will not use the free period as additional time to spend working, and will instead use the time as a way to catch up with tasks such as laundry and room-cleaning. Hoyt added, “My hope is that everybody will fill the time with things that are relaxing, and provide a way to catch up. We’ll see how that goes.” “I also hope to be able to have some fun during that time,” he said. “I do seek and welcome students coming to talk to me about how they feel about it… When Ms. Sykes announced it, it seemed very well-received.” “Hopefully it will be seen as a meaningful gesture, a gift of time. I deliberately left space open in the All-School Meeting schedule [when we were considering it], and if weren’t going to end up doing it I’d have to get on my horse and figure out how to use those four weeks,” he said. The ASM time slots during the four-week period were listed in the schedule under various fake presentation titles, including “The IRS & You: Preparing for a Potential Audit,” and “Comma or Semicolon? Can I Start a Sentence with ‘You’ and Other Really Interesting Grammar Tidbits.” “One thing I love about this school is that we are not afraid to try new things. If we find that it didn’t work, we’ll try something else. If we feel that we can improve it, we’ll do that,” said Hoyt. “Everyone I talked to about it was very positive. All of the students really felt that it was a good thing to do. Part of what was nice was that the students said that we still like All-School Meetings, and understand their importance, even though we do appreciate the extra time we’ll gain by taking a break from them,” Hoyt continued. All-School Meetings will resume spring term.