By James Grob, firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week, the Charles City School District said a gun-safety class wasn’t on the radar, but the administration was willing to discuss it.
So Floyd County Naturalist Heidi Reams came forward, and there was a conversation.
“When we heard that North Butler and Clarksville (school districts) were offering it, I talked with other naturalists around the state and learned that a lot of them already offer it in their schools,” said Reams, who contacted the school district over Christmas break to see if there was an interest.
“I just approached them and told them we are available, and asked them if we could help,” she said.
Thanks in part to those discussions, Charles City High School will be offering a hunter-safety class starting in the fall of the 2019-20 school year for students in grades 9-12.
The class will be optional for those students who want it. Students will not earn school credit for taking the class, but if they pass the test they will receive their state hunter certification.
“This would give them an option, so they could meet their requirements through Floyd County, to get their hunter-safety certification,” CCHS Principal Bryan Jurrens said. “This is just another option we can offer out to anybody who is interested in it.”
Jurrens and Reams were quick to point out that the class will use dummy firearms and blank ammunition — there will no working guns or live ammo in the school.
To pass the course, students will have to pass a 50-question exam with at least 70 percent correct.
“We’re appreciative of the fact that Heidi brought this to our attention,” said Charles City Communication and Community Engagement Director Justin DeVore. “It’s an opportunity for our students to get more experience with something that they choose — something that they want to participate in.”
“To me, it’s a matter of ‘why not?’” Jurrens added. “It’s a way for us to support the people who are interested.”
Last month, it was reported that middle school students in two area school districts will be learning how to handle firearms as part of a mandatory hunter safety course being introduced in the next school year. Students in both the seventh and eighth grades in the North Butler and Clarksville districts will take part in the classes starting in 2019.
One major difference between the course taught in Charles City and the courses taught in the other school districts will be that the other districts offer a mandatory class which students can opt out of, while Charles City is offering an optional class for students to opt into.
Reams, who has 10 years of experience teaching certified hunter-safety classes, will be the instructor. As Floyd County Conservation naturalist, Reams provides programs for all public schools within the county. She also offers a variety of public programs and family opportunities to interact and appreciate the local natural resources.
Reams said the school courses will not impact the classes already offered by the Izaak Walton League or Floyd County Conservation. The two organizations will still offer classes, as they have done.
“This will just supplement those classes,” Reams said. “Hunter’s ed is more than just the firearm. It’s about the ethics and the responsibility involved. Yes, there are gun-handling components to it, but it’s way more than that.”
She said the course covers things like respect for landowners, species identification and hunting and shooting rules and regulations.
“There is a gun-handling component that includes knowing how to tell when a gun is loaded, and safely passing a gun from one person to another,” Reams said.
Currently, the courses offered by Floyd County Conservation are after hours — when students may be involved in extra-curricular activities — or on Saturdays, at the Floyd County Conservation Fossil and Prairie Park Reserve. At CCHS, students will be able to opt-in to the opportunity during what is known as SMART lunch — which stands for “Students Maximizing their Achievement, Relationships and Time.”
Jurrens explained that SMART lunch is essentially a period during the day for students to go above and beyond and do things that they wouldn’t normally be able to do.
“SMART lunch time is time for students to opt-in to whatever they want,” Jurrens said. “They can get supplemental support, they can get different career consultants coming in to talk about jobs. Our kids are busy, and we have a lot of kids who take part in extra-curricular activities, before school and after school, so we created an embedded time during the day.”
SMART lunch can consist of anything from a choir teacher having extra rehearsals to a fencing club, to building a rock wall. Additionally, it can be a chance for students who might need to catch up academically.
“Anybody can go to any teacher during SMART lunch for extra help — every teacher is available at that time,” Jurrens said.