A program connecting police officers with elementary
aged students in the classroom called G.R.E.A.T.
has been going strong in La Crosse elementary schools
for decades .
and if you have a student in fourth grade, they'll
likely be familiar with it.
But changes this year for
the local program has implications
on a national scale.
News 8's Madalyn O'Neill has more.
GREAT stands for the Gang Resistance Education and
meant to help kids make good decisions.
The La Crosse Police Department was one of the four
regional training centers in the nation .
meaning officers from around the country would travel
to La Crosse to learn how to teach GREAT.
But as of this year, that's no longer the case.
Officer Kurt Weaver
Working with the kids is just so much fun.
Teaching a fourth grade class is not Officer Kurt
Weaver's every day job duty .
but he doesn't mind the change of scenery.
On patrol, it's a lot of negatives.
For this I get a lot of positives.
It's kept him coming back to the classroom every year
for the past 15 years ...Weaver teaching great."
...helping fourth graders learn the skills to make
We study about being a great citizen.
I think it helps with us not bullying.
Weaver knows the GREAT program well .
so well, in fact, the La Crosse police department
was one of four sites to organize GREAT training sessions
in the country .
up until this year.
That was funded by federal government.
Unfortunately they took away funding so we lost that.
It was a big deal for la crosse.
We had some estimates of hundreds of thousands of
dollars of economic impact.
Weaver also has worries back inside the classroom.
This shows workbook is part of the federal funding,
is the work book, so this isn't local taxpayer, so
hopefully that's still covered.
It could be an issue down the road is losing things
And his concerns extend nationwide.
Just less officers will be trained every year.
if there are less officers being trained that means
there's less officers out teaching the program, which
isn't a good thing.
He says, especially not now.
A big thing nowadays that's very important is just
seeing a police officer as a friend.
There's been a lot of negative press unfortunately
saying we're enemies.
In *this* classroom .
the program is doing its job.
It's really amazing .
I've never seen a police officer in person.
It's really cool just to meet a police officer that
you can actually see and talk to.
In LaX, MO, N8
The local program is still funded, and this year all
fourth graders at La Crosse elementary schools, public
and private, are getting six 45-minute GREAT lessons
to start the school year.
Can you tell us more about the way GREAT is taught?
They do a lot of scenario role playing .
where they talk together to figure out the safest
choice in made up situations.