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Bismarck School Board member and then-president Matt Sagsveen gestures while opening a board meeting at the Tom Baker Meeting Room in the City/County Office Building in June 2017. 

In an attempt to "rightsize" crowded classrooms in Bismarck schools, the Bismarck School Board has agreed to hire about 28 teachers for the upcoming school year.

On Monday, school board members agreed to hire 28.25 full-time equivalent teaching positions after the district recently completed an assessment, which indicated the need to hire 50.5 teachers over the next two years.

It's unclear how much the additional teachers will cost. Superintendent Jason Hornbacher said this will be discussed later this year when the board sets the district's budget.

Last year, the school board agreed to hire 20 additional teaching positions, which was estimated to cost $1.4 million. These positions were added in order to maintain current class sizes and to offer additional special education teachers and mental health services.

Still, school board members say even more teachers are necessary.

"There's a definite need in this community and in this school system for this help," Board Member Karl Lembke said Monday.

The positions will be added across the district for the 2019-20 year in pre-K-12 classrooms, as well as special education, according to Hornbacher.

Board members also said they believe some of the issues facing the district, including mental health concerns, bullying and classroom safety, are exacerbated by large class sizes.

"I think it's really at that breaking point," Board Member Jon Lee said.

Hornbacher said the needs assessment included input from school administrators about how many teachers were needed to support adequate classroom sizes, as defined under district policy.

Board Vice President Heide Delorme said the board is "trying to be fiscally responsible" by hiring a total of 50.5 teachers over the span of two years.

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(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)

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