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A special year: Kelly Mill Elementary's 5th grade first to go through every year since school opened in 2012
Katie Andrews
Katie Andrews.

Katie Andrews walked through the doors of Kelly Mill Elementary School five years ago for the first time alongside an entire student population that did the same. She was the cute that a kindergartner should be, being held by the hand as a Forsyth County News photographer captured the moment at the school’s first day ever.

Katie Andrews walked through the doors of Kelly Mill Elementary School on Thursday for her last first day ever as an elementary school student alongside not as many students doing the same.

Katie Andrews
She was the cute that a fifth grader should be, not much taller than the 2012 version of herself, but this time accompanied by her third grade brother and the knowledge that she’s one of the older kids, pumping a triumphant hand in the air as a Forsyth County News reporter asked her what it feels like to be queen of the school now that she’s in fifth grade.

Katie is one of the students who will become the first group of kids to go through every grade at the school off Chamblee Gap Road as the Colts begin their sixth year in existence.

“I like being one of the smallest but one of the oldest,” she said.

She will turn 11 next Friday.

She can’t remember too much about her early years in school, but she said she has always liked her teachers and her classes, especially specials like PE and music and subjects like math.

Her time at Kelly Mill has been filled with the normal things elementary schools offer their students. She is most looking forward to the school play after last year’s stint as a candy girl and Oompa Loompa in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

The first few years for her mother, Julie Andrews, were filled with the normal things a new school goes through. Andrews said she remembers fundraising, filling the media center with books, learning the newest technology.

Andrews, whose oldest son started in third grade in 2012, said she has also had only positive experiences from Kelly Mill teachers and administrators.

Whether students have been through every grade at Kelly Mill or whether they took their first steps inside the building this week, teachers in every grade and every subject spent Thursday welcoming everyone to the Colt family.

Kindergarten teachers told students to say hello to the person next to them. PE teachers instructed students to skip or gallop around the gym until the music stops then sit next to person next to them and tell them their favorite thing they did this summer.

“We’re doing a lot of hands-on things, engaging things … that are fun so they’re not quite sure they’re learning,” Principal Ron McAllister said.

McAllister has led the school since it opened, and he said a goal for this year is to work toward STEAM accreditation from the Georgia Department of Transportation.

“Apart from the fact that you have new families come in each year, we’ve been able to really define who we are at Kelly Mill. The first couple years are getting a staff together and getting to know each other and bringing the community together, but we really feel like going into year six we’re better equipped to really establish what about Kelly Mill makes it different than every other school,” he said.

He said parents and teachers have “worked tirelessly” to do special activities and events for the fifth graders, Katie and the rest of the “first true graduating class.”

Christy Fagan, a fifth grade homeroom teacher, had kids pick a new partner every few minutes and read ice breakers to each other.

Fagan is teaching in Forsyth County for the first time this year, having taught previously in Florida.

“They really stress making personal connections and that this is a family,” she said. “This is a really good district to work in. Trust me. I did my research.”