Our Stories

Ode to JPDS/Milton

June 29, 2021 by Devora Kimelman-Block (Community)

2004, the last time we saw the Cicada X brood, was my oldest child’s first year at JPDS. Now, 4 kids and a generation of 17-year cicadas later, we are facing our family’s waning hours at Milton. In less than two weeks (around the same time the 2021 cicadas depart), my youngest child, and our family, will say goodbye to Milton. Like the cicadas, we will move on to a new phase of life.

In many ways, our family came of age alongside Milton. When we first came to JPDS, Sharon Koss was the principal, there were fewer than 250 students, and JPDS had just moved to 16th St. But the values and culture on which JPDS was built were so robust that they held despite changes in size, principal or location. For instance, JPDS curated a strong sense of community – a padding that kids (and adults) can use to see the world for all its potential and not just its precariousness.

Here is an illustration. With my 1980s big city public school experience, I knew recess-time to be break-time for the teachers. Sure, technically teachers were on the sidelines to help out(ish), but mostly they were hands-off. So it came as quite a surprise when in 2013 JPDS hired a Recess Consultant. Who had ever heard of such a thing? There was no big announcement, JPDS saw a need and handled it.

I found out when it made a significant difference in my older son’s life. Before then, JPDS’ playing field was taken over daily by a group of boys playing football during recess. My son, not the most nimble, got bored of never getting passed the ball, and started sitting on the bleachers. I knew this was happening, but from my recess-is-teacher-break-time vantage point, I didn’t think there was much to be done. Turns out, the girls also didn’t have space to play as a result of the football game. JPDS recognized it as a problem, and hired the Consultant who suggested a couple of changes that the school adopted, and poof! The problem was solved and the communal environment was better. JPDS saw what lay outside their vision for the school’s culture, and because they weren’t blinded by convention (as I was), they found a solution.

Fast forward to COVID when Milton’s strong communal vision and out-of-the-box thinking enabled it to shine like a beacon. When schools across the country were struggling to find even one day a week where the kids could attend in-person school, Milton found a way. This past year, Milton hit it out of the ballpark. In a scary year full of peril, Milton built a haven of community which laid a foundation for kids to develop into responsible adults with a community minded consciousness.

Needless to say, I have lots of sweet and sad thoughts about leaving Milton. Not only, “where did the cute chubby cheeks (that are now under my 18 year old’s facial hair stubble) go,” but nostalgia towards the school that helped our kids (and family) grow from childhood to adulthood. It takes a village to raise a child, and Milton helped show how to get the job done.

I cannot imagine where my kids will be in 2038 when the cicadas visit us next, but it is nice to have a bit of confidence that they will be okay out there in the big bad world. Wherever they are, Milton played no small role in helping them get there. For that, I will be forever grateful.