The Medford School District said it will approve a sponsorship for a clay target club sports team as soon as Friday after shooting down the idea for almost two years.

Superintendent Brian Shumate said at the School Board meeting Monday that it's time for the district to listen to the community’s wishes.

"We had to be careful, especially when you put guns and kids together, but there’s certainly a niche market for it here," Shumate said. "I do see a valuable lesson could be learned from something that can be dangerous in life or life-threatening. Kids can learn to respect it.”

Students in the district have been aiming for their own co-ed, no bench-warmers, trap-shooting team for the past two seasons but couldn't get the School Board to establish a club. Instead, the district "released" interested students to compete in the Oregon State High School Clay Target League with Cascade Christian High School’s team.

Two South Medford High School students, Chase Costanti and Grace Ede, placed third and first overall, respectively, in the league’s state championship last year in Hillsboro. Four other students from Medford also competed on Cascade’s team.

District officials had concerns about the increasing costs of liability insurance and the risks associated with the sport when it last rejected the students’ request in July.

That changed at the meeting Monday.

Chief Operations Officer Brad Earl proposed that the district utilize the existing local club, its insurance policy and professional experience to avoid additional costs and risks.

The team, managed by coaches and volunteers, would operate independently with its own budget but follow closely the Oregon School Activities Association guidelines. The club also would be required to have liability insurance and maintain communication with the district.

The league, local coaches and registered volunteers are responsible for their own liability insurance, while the district could be named as the additional insurer, Earl said. Students are covered under the district’s insurance policy.

Student participants would be featured in yearbooks as a sport team and provided with transportation, he added.

If approved by the superintendent Friday, the district will sponsor a team for ninth- to 12th-graders with the Medford Gun Club, Earl said.

Ryan Costanti, a member of the Medford Gun Club and Chase’s father, helped establish Cascade Christian’s clay target shooting team while advocating for Medford’s. He testified in front of the School Board Monday night about the growing market for the sport in Southern Oregon.

“Several Medford students who were competing for Cascade Christian last year and those who are interested in Medford will as well benefit from this program,” Costanti said.

As of 2015, more than 24,000 students were registered to participate in the sport across the country. Oregon’s 2017 league has 14 teams, including three districts with more than 25 student participants.

Students who wish to participate need to take the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s hunter education course or earn their Student Athlete Firearm Education certification from the U.S. High School Clay Target League to sign up for the club, Costanti said. Coaches will provide students with safety training for a week before beginning practice, he said.

“Clubs work with student athletes on gun safety because other people at the range are also at risk,” Costanti said. “Parts of what we teach and preach is knowledge of how to handle the firearms safely. If kids happened to come across a gun at some point, they would know how to handle that.”

Costanti said each student will pay about $30 to register plus the cost of clay targets and ammunition. The club doesn’t require students to own a gun to join, and it can help students maintain their personal guns, Costanti said.

Practice, which runs April through June, will take place off campus and on the Medford Gun Club grounds. Students will not be allowed to bring guns and ammunition on campus, Costanti said.

According to an Oregon State High School Clay Target League report, the clay target shooting league has not had any accidents since it was formed in 2001.

— Reach reporting intern Tran Nguyen at tnguyen@mailtribune.com or 541-776-4485.