The Sheboygan School Board was wrong to give the Sheboygan Rifle & Pistol Club an extension to use the indoor shooting range at Urban Middle School.
After all, it's been 2½ years since testing found high levels of lead contamination in the range. We've also known since then the ventilation system, which is supposed to remove the harmful lead dust, is inadequate.
Though the range was given a thorough cleaning at the time — and new procedures were instituted for post-use cleaning to improve the indoor environment — nothing has been done to replace the faulty ventilation system.
It remains an unsafe environment for range users.
In the interim, the cost of replacing the ventilation system has risen from $50,000 to $70,000.
Our recollection is the gun club saying it would stop using the indoor range in October 2010 because the then $50,000 cost to replace the ventilation system was too great. The club said it would contemplate building an indoor range on its property in the Town of Mosel, where it has an outdoor range.
But the club changed course and made improvements to its outdoor facility and now wants time beyond October to decide whether to invest money in a new ventilation system.
We can understand cutting the gun club some slack because it has used the indoor range to teach gun safety courses for many years.
But really, nothing has changed since October 2007, so why should it take until October 2011 for the school administration and the gun club to come up with a plan?
Not a decision, mind you, just a plan.
Some members on School Board, it seems, are trying their best to avoid having to make the decision the board should have made in 2007 — that is, close the range permanently.
We disagree with board member Scott Lewandoske who wants to keep the range open. "We need safety training in guns," he said at last week's School Board meeting.
But the shooting range at Urban is not an integral part of teaching gun safety; it is merely convenient.
Safety courses consist of book instruction and shooting training. The book part can be done in any classroom. Teaching the student how to handle a gun and shoot it can be done on any outdoor range.
It's fortunate that lead contamination hasn't been found outside of the confines of the range. While range proponents can say, "Why close it," the only way to ensure that lead contamination could never be a problem elsewhere in the school is to close the range permanently.
Finally, if the school district were planning a new school building today and said it wanted to put an indoor shooting range in the basement, we doubt there would be many who would say, "that's a great idea."