Osakis City Council members were happy to hear about a new collaboration between the Osakis Police Department and the Osakis School District – school resource officers.

Osakis Police Chief Chad Gulbranson told council members of the new program at the Monday, Jan. 13, City Council meeting.

Gulbranson said he and two of his officers spend about 12-15 hours each week at the school. He said it is a way for students to get to know the officers better.

“It’s good to have police there,” said Gulbranson.

One of the city council members agreed, saying it is a great way for students to have dialogue with the officers without them being in trouble.

Office Police Officer Mark Grinstead, who along with Office Calvin Uhl, are both full-time Osakis Police officers, and Gulbranson, each spend about four to five hours a week at the school.

Typically, they are there around the lunch hours to visit with the students and they also make themselves available for teachers to do presentations in the classroom throughout the day, said Grinstead.

In an email to the newspaper, Grinstead explained that the collaboration began at the start of the new year. He said that Osakis Superintendent Randy Bergquist submitted a proposal for a School Resource Officer grant.

Bergquist said the grant is for two years.

“I am really excited about this,” said Berguist. “To have this collaboration with each other is exciting. Anytime you can get kids comfortable with the police, it’s a good thing.”

Grinstead said the grant was awarded with the understanding that at the expiration of the grant, the school district and the city of Osakis would budget funding to continue the program.

He said the grant emphasizes the Osakis Police Department partnering with the school district to be a resource for students with an emphasis on their mental health and security.

Bergquist said the school district has a mental health team that meets weekly and Gulbranson has been attending those meetings.

They discuss students in need and trends they are observing with the student population. Everyone shares information to get a full picture of students’ needs. Gulbranson said after the meeting, he meets with his officers and fills them in.

Grinstead said other area departments also have School Resource Officers and they’ve proven to be very effective in building trusting relationships and providing resources for students.

“It’s no secret that our society is falling short when dealing with mental health, which is becoming a more prevalent problem for medical professionals and law enforcement,” said Grinstead. “Osakis police officers deal with mental health calls on a nearly weekly basis in town with adults and children, which takes more time to resolve than most calls we handle.”

He said students are no different, with single parent and blended families dynamics, parents working multiple jobs to make ends meet, and with hard-to-monitor social media activities and relationships, juvenile mental health issues are on the rise.

“The Osakis School District does a great job monitoring and offering counseling and resources to students in need through their full-time school psychologist, social worker, counselor and their school nurse,” said Grinstead.

As School Resource Officers, Grinstead said they attend sporting events and visit with the students and parents, while they get to cheer on their favorite sports teams – the Osakis Silverstreaks, of course.

Grinstead also teaches the 5th grade Drug Abuse Resistance Education or DARE program to three sections each week for 12 weeks.

The officers will be attending specialized SRO training in the next month to learn how to better serve the students.

“The benefits of us being in the school is paying off already through the relationships and trust we are building with the students,” said Grinstead. “I personally receive text messages and phone calls from students on a nearly weekly basis asking for advice or to discuss concerns they are having with school and family matters.”

Grinstead said he can’t speak for all three of the School Resource Officers, but for him, his hours spent at the school are his favorite during his shift.

“I enjoy spending time with the kids,” said Grinstead. “It is imperative that the SRO positive continues and possibly expands after the grant expires, for the betterment of the Osakis community.”