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SIOUX CITY | No new personnel will be added, but there will be more directed instruction for middle school students in the Sioux City School District talented and gifted program in the upcoming second semester.

School officials in a Monday meeting of the Sioux City School Board described mid-year changes for January, which were spurred by continuing criticism of how the program was altered for 2017-18.

"We promise we won't let up on this," School Board President Mike Krysl said.

Starting in three months, seventh period in the three middle schools will be used as a period of "enrichment." In that conception, TAG students will be grouped together for special instruction in separate classes.

In the other six periods, the district will continue with so-called cluster grouping, where TAG students learn in the same classes with other students. In all those periods, the three TAG specialist instructors -- one in each school -- will work with the classroom teachers to adapt lessons that meet the needs of each cluster group. TAG specialists will also, as time allows, assist with providing instruction to the identified TAG students.

It was the cluster piece that upset some parents this year. For at least the fourth time since June, people spoke Monday at a school board meeting about their apprehensions about TAG services in the 2017-18 school year.

During a 90-minute discussion, eight parents and one student said implementation was lacking thus far in the year, so school officials must more concretely follow through in the second semester, since so much time has been lost.

"I can't afford, as a parent, to let this be a lost year for my child...My son cannot wait for all this to be figured out," said Robin Wagner, mother of a North Middle seventh-grader.

In late 2016, Superintendent Paul Gausman announced the change to cluster grouping. Previously, TAG students in grades 6-8 were pulled from classes for separate instruction. Under the new system, TAG students remain in normal classes and are grouped with each other in large clusters that also include regular students.

That change to cluster grouping came about after a school district Talented and Gifted Advisory Group processed through issues in the 2015-16 school year. Additionally, school officials made a change so that TAG students in all grades would get a Personalized Education Plan. Those PEP's were to diagnose a student’s needs and formulate a plan that best addresses an individual’s strengths and learning requirements.

Dennis King, father of a North Middle school daughter, said he supported cluster grouping, but the implementation was poor this semester.

"These kids, they are bored to death at North Middle... (His daughter) says 'It is like what I did in second grade.' It is not fair," King said.

School district Associate Superintendent Kim Buryanek, the district's second-ranked official, laid out the changes in a presentation Monday. The opening video slide in her talk simply had the phrase, "We Are Listening."

One other piece Buryanek announced was placing a proposal in the 2018-19 school year budget to hire three more TAG specialists. School Board member Jackie Warnstadt said it is doubtful in a tight budget year ahead that those positions can be funded.

The changes described Monday only impact middle school students, since no changes had been put in place at the high schools for 2017-18.

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County and education reporter

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