As we prepare for the beginning of another school year, our students have a myriad of opportunities for extended learning outside of the classroom.

Research clearly demonstrates that students who are involved in co- and extracurricular activities outperform their peers on every indicator of success. From GPA to ACT scores, from disciplinary referrals to attendance data, students on athletics teams, in music groups and in arts programs are better prepared for success. Students who participate in our clubs or in our theater programs are more ready for tomorrow than students who aren't involved in activities outside of the classroom.

One of the goals of our district's quality profile is to increase participation in our school activities.

Hilliard students are blessed with choices: They have opportunities today that will prepare them for success in the future. We know that lessons learned on the field, court, stage and team have equal importance to lessons learned in the classroom. Perseverance, teamwork, grit, focus and work ethic are what our students will need in the future. Involvement can't be an option; it must be a requirement.

With opportunities come choices: Students clearly can't "do it all." As parents and educators, we must guide young people to make reasonable, intentional decisions.

While we encourage participation, we also must encourage balance. While we encourage development of a strong work ethic, we also must encourage students to learn to make intentional choices.

It's good that students can make commitments, without committing to everything. We must encourage today's students not to half-heartedly overcommit to too many things. Students must whole-heartedly commit to what creates balance in our lives.

We love our children. We clearly want what is best for them, and part of what is best is balance: time to rest and time to eat healthy meals, time for sleep and time with family, time for faith development and time for friends. Adults are armed with the tools to fight the urge for overactivity and we must provide guidance and help children develop the essential skill of making healthy, balanced choices.

We must encourage our students to use their gifts, to develop their passions and to cultivate their interests.

Your district leaders never expect a coach to advocate participation in a single sport – young people need balance. We encourage participation in many activities, within reason. We encourage parents to talk with students about balance, to engage with coaches about development and reasonable future aspirations and to talk with directors about potential arts experiences in the future.

We are partners in guiding our young people to be successful adults; we are partners in ensuring our students are ready for tomorrow.

For our students, "ready for tomorrow" means a balanced educational experience.

For the district, being "ready for tomorrow" requires leaders to prepare for growth.

As we analyze the construction patterns for new houses and apartments and prepare for our growing population, we continue to reflect on current attendance areas and school populations.

I often am asked about the need for a fourth high school. It isn't something that will be required in the foreseeable future. Our McVey Innovative Learning Center and Innovative Learning Hub provide tremendous flexibility and phenomenal opportunities for middle school and high school students.

Still, district leaders may need to engage in tough conversations in the next couple of years.

We may need to balance our elementary-school attendance areas.

We may need to consider an addition to Weaver Middle School.

We may need to explore an additional elementary building in the western portion of the district.

Please note, I specifically use the word may, and each option includes intentionally engaging our community in these discussions. As the district continues to grow, we must be purposeful and open in our future plans.

Being ready for tomorrow includes you. District leaders engaged and formed several task-force groups over the past four years. Each task force included groups of teachers, administrators, parents, community members and students. The task forces for technology, start times, gifted-student education and facilities all have submitted findings to the school board and executive leadership team.

As we consider options to handle growth, we do so hand-in-hand with our school community.

Hilliard City Schools Superintendent John Marschhausen writes the Hilliard Schools Connection guest column for the ThisWeek Hilliard Northwest News.