MARSHALL - The Marshall Public School board heard a presentation Monday by Nick Simonson, President of Lyon County Pheasants Forever, about the possibility of establishing a Minnesota State High School Clay Target League (MNHSCTL) trap shooting team at Marshall High School.
The league would begin in April, so a board decision is expected in January.
"I think it will appeal to a lot of different students," said Simonson, who is also the vice-president of the Redwood River Sportsman's Club, an organization that plans to work in collaboration with MHS and LCPF to fund and manage the venture. "There has been an increased involvement across the state and I think it will fall in line nicely with other events, like the fall FFA shoot."
The MNHSCTL is a competitive trap shooting organization formed in 2001 with three teams and currently with 115 teams in Minnesota, has become the fastest growing activity in the state, doubling since 2011 from 1,500 students to over 3,200 participants currently.
Simonson pointed out that the opportunity would create a spring activity for those students not currently involved in spring programs, would foster involvement in other similar programs, such as the fall FFA shoot, would allow students to interact with teammates, succeed individually, develop skills, become well-rounded and create positive memories of their time at MHS in addition to building bonds with community groups and businesses.
Marshall Schools Superintendent Klint Willert agreed.
"This would give more students the opportunity to be fully engaged at school," he said. "And instead of working in competition with similar activities, I believe it would be working more hand-in-glove."
Initially, the activity would be backed by RRSC and LCPF financially, through a percentage of a $35,000 grant program and with other potential resources anticipated from various local organizations, which would help make the activity cost-neutral to MHS.
"We're guaranteed $35,000 over 20 years," Simonson said. "We can draw up to 5 percent a year on that. And we'll work with students to keep costs low. I'm confident the resources are there."
Simonson also noted that safety and security are two areas that would be stressed within the activity, noting that preconceived notions were not factual.
"Since the MNHSCTL started in 2001, no student has been injured," he said. "This is a claim that no other athletic activity can make."
A number of DNR-certified instructors are part of LCPF and RRSC and will be on hand for the team, Simonson said. The coaches also receive training and are knowledgeable about trap shooting.
Simonson said security is also strong, noting that RRSC is a locked facility and that participants would be instructed to leave all firearms home or at RRSC in the locked gun safe so guns would never come near or onto school property, which would be a violation.
The spring league would be open to co-ed teams of five or more students in grades 6-12 who have received their firearm safety certification through the Minnesota DNR, Simonson said. For more information about the activity, people are asked to go to: www.mnclaytarget.com.
Board members learned that smaller area schools, such as Tracy, Canby, Wabasso and Montevideo, already participate in MNHSCTL. Similarly-sized schools like Delano, Waconia, Worthington and Fergus Falls also compete already. Conference placement is based on the number of team members, not the size of the school, Simonson said.
LCPF treasurer Ron Prorok and Redwood River Sportsman's Club president Kevin Kayser were also in attendance to answer questions that the board had. Board member Karin VanKeulen noted that she had worked with Simonson and Prorok for the Governor's Pheasant Opener event and was impressed with their capabilities.
Board member Matt Coleman suggested the activity be open to seventh- through 12th-grade students rather than sixth-graders because of how other activities are set up. Board member Curt Kovash expressed his concern about funding longevity, but said he believes the activity will generate interest.
In other discussions, it was noted that teacher negotiations are currently being set up.
"We have some dates that have been proposed, so that's moving in the right direction," Willert said.
Negotiated agreements are projected to be at 2-2.5 percent per year for salary and approximately 3 percent per year in benefits, which the board discussed in the 2014-15 school year budget development parameters conversation.
"It's the largest settlement we'll have to make," Willert said. "The Affordable Care Act is a huge question mark yet. We don't know what the implications are yet for our staff. There are a lot of moving parts, so we're still trying to sort them out."
Willert was disappointed to have to tell board members that there would likely be no show choir this year because of the lack of being able to hire a director.