Marksmanship suspended

Adam Landry, a Nashua Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps cadet, speaks to city residents and the Board of Education  about a new marksmanship course initially approved for Nashua High School North but later suspended in this May file photo.

NASHUA — After some students and school officials raised concerns about a new air rifle marksmanship course potentially taking place on school grounds, the Horse Pond Fish and Game Club has agreed to host the class at its facility.

This week, the Board of Education once again approved the course for the Nashua Air Force Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, with the understanding that the class will take place off school property — not on the grounds of Nashua High School North as initially proposed.

“We want to do this thoughtfully,” said Amanda Bastoni, director of the Nashua Technology Center at Nashua High School North.

She thanked Ray Smith, president of the Horse Pond Fish and Game Club, and its club members who voted to waive all fees so that the air rifle marksmanship course could be held at its club facility at no charge.

Master Sgt. Nick Ellis will oversee the program, which is now under the purview of the Career and Technical Education Center, meaning students from nearby schools may also participate in Nashua’s JROTC group.

Once Ellis secures an assistant, the marksmanship program will be able to get off the ground, said Bastoni.

“We plan to do it as soon as possible,” said Bastoni, adding she is hopeful the course will be available next semester.

Although school officials initially voted for the marksmanship course to take place on school property this past spring, several students voiced concerns that they would feel unsafe, which prompted an additional review.

Major Brian Newton, who previously helped lead Nashua’s JROTC program, said earlier that within the past 40 years since JROTC units across the country have been participating in marksmanship courses, there have been zero incidents.

“Each air rifle will be locked up in a storage container,” Ellis said this week, explaining the guns will be out of sight when they are transported to the Horse Pond Fish and Game Club for practice.

“I want to take that fear out of anyone’s mindset,” he said.

Newton said earlier that a high school in Missouri that implemented the marksmanship program had its enrollment increase by 75 percent.

The air rifles, which are not classified as firearms, use compressed air or carbon dioxide.

Bastoni said there are already procedures in place so that the air rifles can be moved throughout the school in a safe to get them from their secure location to the Horse Pond Fish and Game Club site about a mile from the high school campus.