Every time Ron McAllister roams the dust-filled, partially finished hallways of Kelly Mill Elementary School, he gets excited.
The campus off Kelly Mill Road, which will be completed in March, is still cold and dark on the inside. But that can’t stop McAllister from smiling as he surveys the progress of the school he’ll oversee as principal in August.
“The chance to create from the ground up, to me, is very exciting,” said McAllister, currently principal at Vickery Creek Elementary School.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to really, as close as we can come to it, create the perfect educational setting for kids. I absolutely base every decision on what is best for kids.”
Construction of Kelly Mill is based on the same design as Whitlow and Brookwood elementary schools, which opened in 2009. They include 80 classrooms, a cafeteria and media center. But there will be some adjustments.
“We’re always listening and trying to upgrade facilities to meet the needs of the … parents, teachers and students,” said Walter Fairchild, construction coordinator.
Among the changes will be: more windows, allowing for additional natural light; carpeting in every classroom, to cut maintenance costs; and access to the cafeteria stage from the music room, so students don’t have to enter through the audience.
The media center is also unique, McAllister said.
“It’s not the traditional coming in and being quiet and getting a book,” he said. “We want conversations to be going on. We want it to be a collaborative atmosphere … we really see this as a hub of Kelly Mill and the activity that we want.”
Fairchild noted the school also has bio-retention ponds for underground rainwater storage, part of the effort to be more sensitive to the environment.
It’s something he said will also be featured in future Forsyth County schools.
More than 100 students from Vickery are being redistricted to make the switch to Kelly Mill with McAllister.
He is working closely with them, as well all other new students and parents, to ease the transition.
McAllister is posting updates and photos online and looking forward to the school’s new Web site, slated to launch soon.
He’s also received phone calls and e-mails from parents looking to offer support.
McAllister, who has been balancing his time between the two campuses, said he has learned much during his time at Vickery.
He intends to use the school’s close-knit community as a guideline for developing Kelly Mill.
Plans also call for an interactive science lab and for offering the Bring Your Own Technology initiative, both offered at Vickery.
McAllister also wants to hear from parents and the Kelly Mill community to see what they want for their children.
When the school is completed, there will be open houses and meetings to engage and gather information from families and staff.
“I value input from all facets, and so a lot of what will happen here will be a result of what the community values and sees that we need, what the teachers say we need, and then we’ll go from there,” he said.
“It’s not just by luck. It’s not just by chance. But there’s a lot of intentional thought and collaboration and input and design around what is the perfect learning environment for kids.”