Mt. Lebanon school board weighs rifle range upgrade

Cost estimated at $400,000

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Members of the Mt. Lebanon High School rifle team attended Monday's school board meeting to show support for the future of the program.

Some two dozen students joined the team's coaches and district athletic director John Grogan to provide information about the sport as the board ponders whether to spend money to upgrade the school's rifle range.

The facility, on the third floor of the main academic building, is not part of the ongoing high school renovation project. Necessary improvements include bringing the facility up to federal Americans With Disabilities Act standards and installing equipment to enhance interior air quality. The program has been active at Mt. Lebanon since 1937.

Cost estimates for the range, made at the time of preparing specifications for the overall renovation project, were about $400,000.

One alternative to upgrading the school facility is to use an off-site home range.

One suggestion has involved the Bethel Park High School range. Mr. Grogan, though, said a preliminary conversation with that district was not promising, as Upper St. Clair's team also uses the Bethel Park facility.

"I don't see that as a long-term viable solution," he told the Mt. Lebanon board.

Another potential locale might be the Dormont-Mt. Lebanon Sportsman's Club, which is in Peters.

Board member Mary Birks asked rifle team members at the meeting whether they could make such a commute after school, and about two-thirds of them indicated they could not.

Team co-captain Koehler Powell, a senior, said many students do not have vehicles for their use, and those who are under 18 are constrained by state law regarding how many fellow students they can transport.

She spoke about the fellowship among team members and said her participation in rifle has thoroughly enhanced her high school experience, and it has been beneficial during college interviews.

"It's something that distinguishes us from a lot of other kids," she said, explaining that many interviewers know nothing about competitive rifle and are interested in the topic.

Senior Reia Cho told the board that she and many of her teammates are students who excel academically, and the sport has helped them develop such attributes as focus and concentration.

"We all love this team. We have a lot of activities that we do, but this is by far what we devote the most time to," she said.

Along with a Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League competitive rifle team, Mt. Lebanon High School also offers a Learn to Shoot program as a club activity, drawing about 80 students. Team members use the range throughout the academic year.

"It takes a significant amount of time to develop an Olympic-grade shooter, and that's what we do here," head rifle coach Dave Willard said, referring to the type of competition in which the team participates.

The range also will be used next month for the second Shoot Out Cancer fundraiser.

Teachers throughout the district participated in the first event last year, and about $1,225 was raised toward cancer research at the University of Michigan.

The floor on which the range is located is scheduled for renovation in January, according to Rick Marciniak, the district's project manager. Improvements to the range, if the board decides to go in that direction, would be subject to a new round of bids.

education - neigh_south

Harry Funk, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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