At first glance, it might seem as though Pinehurst School District is an expensive luxury for the handful of families it serves. But a closer look reveals that the tiny school on the Greensprings is much more than the sum of its per-student spending. And Pinehurst parents and the community are doing their share to keep it going.

One of the smallest districts in the state, Pinehurst operates one elementary school serving, this fall, 16 students from preschool through fifth grade. The middle-school component was phased out in 2015.

In per-student terms, Pinehurst spends well above the state average for public schools. In the 2014-15 school year, for instance, the district spent $19,209 per student, while the state average was $10,302. That's a lot of money per student, but the total differential was just $180,000 for the 20 students enrolled that year. That's less than one administrator at a big district earns in salary alone.

And the education those students receive is clearly high-quality. Pinehurst students score in the top 5 percent in English and top 10 percent in math statewide.

The small class size and individual attention that helped achieve those numbers can't be replicated everywhere, for obvious reasons. But Pinehurst accomplishes what it does with the help of parents and grandparents, who make up the entire staff and do many tasks they don't necessarily get paid for, and a community that strongly supports the school.

Imagine what larger districts could accomplish with that kind of public involvement.