Board members discussed and approved a revised schematic design and estimated costs for Carroll County Middle School renovations during a school board meeting Thursday.

John Gilbert with RossTarrant Architects of Lexington, Ky., presented plans previously discussed by school board members and architects for the upcoming construction project. Designs show the addition of an 800-seat gymnasium with a second-floor track area and a new multi-purpose classroom space.

Plans also call for renovation of the old gym area for the school's STEM program, band room and basement. The media center, art room and restrooms in the middle school will also be renovated and remodeled during the construction.

A goal of the renovations will be to take all of the student services out of the middle school's basement to allow for easier access, Gilbert said.

The addition of the gymnasium will also cause the bus and parent loop behind the middle school to be redesigned, he said. Options for additional parking around the school will also be considered.

Jon Conrad, the district's chief financial officer, presented a revised plan showing the estimated cost of the middle school project. The previous plan estimated the project to cost about $9 million. With the revisions to the schematic design, the revised plan showed a cost of about $8.7 million for the project, which will be paid through bonds and school funding already set aside for the project.

Also at the meeting, Carroll County Schools Superintendent Lisa James shared her experiences from her Finland Educational Experience. The experience helped her and a group of five other Kentucky superintendents understand research completed while earning their doctoral degrees in education.

"It's been a tough 30 months," James said. "I want to say thank you (for your support)."

The group of six Kentucky superintendents researched Finland's educational system - one of the top-scoring countries in the world - for their thesis work. The trip allowed the doctoral candidates to fully understand the country's system.

James noted several differences exist between the two countries. Finnish students know at least three languages - Finnish, Swedish and English. Students must study and learn the languages to succeed in the job market after graduation. Several students also travel by themselves to and from school, and students often complete other daily activities - like lunch and recess - without the teacher watching or advising the activities.

"There was a lot of trust," she said.

Students in Finland must begin to make choices about their futures at the ninth grade level as well. A test divides students onto a path for university work or for technical work.

"It's very competitive," she said.

The American group toured schools and participated in different educational programs in the country to see first-hand how the Finnish system operates and maintains such a high level of standards.

"It was just real interesting," James said.

The experience came near the conclusion of the 30-month doctoral program. Work completed during the doctoral program will be used throughout the state once new rules and regulations go into effect for Kentucky superintendents in July.

Also during the meeting, Carroll County Schools Elementary Instructional Supervisor Pam Williams presented data concerning area students that will be entering kindergarten next year. The data showed almost 80 percent of area students are "ready with support," while 15 percent of students are "ready" and about 7 percent of students are "ready with enrichment." The indicators show the majority of students will be struggling when first entering school.

"We really have to think about how to prepare our children for kindergarten," Williams said.