Make no mistake about it: Worthington Schools is preparing its students for the future, Superintendent Trent Bowers said.

Whether they plan to seek a college degree or go into a skilled trade, students are getting a jump-start to the professional world, Bowers said during his annual State of the Schools address Feb. 26 at Worthington Kilbourne High School.

Bowers said the district is doing its part by creating academic opportunities, such as partnering with Columbus State Community College, Sinclair Community College and Central Ohio Technical College, which offer courses that count toward college credits, with classes being taught on the campuses of the two high schools.

The district has created business partnerships with such companies as Abbott Laboratories, Honda and, most recently, Worthington Industries, which have helped train students for life beyond high school and college, he said.

Worthington Schools also has 17 International Baccalaureate classes, which encourage personal and academic achievement in an increasingly globalized world, he said.

Still, those seeking a different path may take classes at the Delaware Area Career Center, which provides training in many fields of study, including cosmetology and law enforcement, he said.

"We know what's important to us in Worthington to prepare our students for college," Bowers said. "But it's equally important for us to prepare our students for a career.

"Ninety-one percent of Worthington students right now choose to go on to a two- or a four-year college. But we know there's many, many unfilled good jobs that would be positive for students right outside, right after their high school career. We want to tap into that career knowledge."

Bowers' speech, interspersed with live performances from students and videos from the classroom, also touched on many other issues, such as attendance.

He said enrollment is expected to increase from 10,600 to 12,000 by 2026. Worthington already is the 14th-largest school district in the state, he said.

Ongoing maintenance issues are being addressed after voters approved an $89 million bond request in 2018, he said. Those include the rebuilding of Perry and Worthington middle schools and the renovation of McCord and Kilbourne middle schools, he said.

Jeff McCallister, whose son, Wes, is a junior at the Linworth Experiential Program, and daughter, Ana, is a seventh-grader at Kilbourne Middle School, said the speech covered a lot of important ground.

"As an event I was impressed how they put this whole thing whole thing together," McCallister said. "Dr. Bowers got his message across in a positive way about the growth of the district and the administration's plans to deal with it.

"It was also a great showcase of talented people in the district and the wide variety of things going on."