Our Hilliard City Schools community and our country as a whole are in the midst of two significant challenges.

The COVID-19 coronavirus crisis has disrupted our daily lives in innumerable ways. The virus still is a concern; it will continue to reshape our lives in the future.

The senseless killing of George Floyd has brought institutional racism to the forefront of our national consciousness. Diversity and justice demand our immediate attention; the time for meaningful change is now. We must rid our schools and our culture of all forms of explicit and implicit racism.

"If it were not for hopes, the heart would break," Thomas Fuller wrote. Our hopes for the future are in our classrooms every day. Our mission to prepare every Hilliard student to be ready for tomorrow is a promise of hope; it is a compact with our commitment to educate our youth, to learn from the past, live in the moment and create a better tomorrow.

The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution is the "owner's manual" for American democracy, and it sets forth a clear mission. "We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union ..." is our purpose. Our Founding Fathers, as deeply flawed and imperfect leaders themselves, began the Constitution with a promise of hope -- with a growth mindset. The union wasn't perfect in 1789; "we the people" strive to make it more perfect through our values, behavior and beliefs.

As a school district, we will embrace the reality that when we return in August, our schools will look different for two critical reasons. We will be working with state and local health department officials to keep our students, teachers and community safe as we battle COVID-19. We also will be working with our black students, teachers and families to make our district live up to our promise. All means all: Every student, teacher and family associated with the district must feel welcome, safe and equal. We must not only remove racism from our policies and practices, but we must root it out of all hearts and minds.

This work is complicated. We have a diverse community with strong feelings and opinions. We have members of our Hilliard family who believe we should return to school in August without limitations or safeguards. We have parents who advocate for social distancing and a more cautious approach. Although a segment of our community is eager to embrace racial conversations in our classrooms, others don't believe it should be a school issue. Social media captures both the passion and anger in our community.

At our core, we are "One Hilliard." Each of us has a right to our own opinions and to voice those opinions, but we also have a responsibility to do so with empathy, understanding and civility.

We are stronger as a Hilliard community when we listen to each other and strive to understand "the why." In our schools, we teach "press pause" and "get your minds right" before responding to each event we encounter. If each of us "press pause," if we act with purpose rather than out of emotion, we meet our constitutional obligation to form that "more perfect Union."

If recent surveys are accurate, about half of our school community will be unhappy with any decision about our return to school buildings. A specific portion of the population will demand students wear masks; other parents will forbid it. Our school district is actively engaging our black community to make long-overdue changes in our behavior; this engenders a passionate response for many.

We encourage each of you to participate in engagement opportunities and active conversation, and we welcome your thoughts and ideas. The district has both scientific polling data and casual survey information about community positions.

The summer of 2020 is a historic opportunity for us to come together as "One Hilliard," embrace the productive discomfort of monumental challenges and create a response that will make each of us proud to live in this incredible community.

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