The world for my current work in progress is a fiction American small town with about 500 residents and 100 kids, located in geographically isolated location which makes busing to larger nearby towns impractical. So I need to set up the smallest possible education facility to cover daycare, kindergarten along with 1st through 12th grade.

I figure that with such a small kid population, some of the age levels will have very few students, so I am hopeful that some adjacent years can be combined together, sharing one teacher and one teaching assistant across two classrooms. So I'm guessing that 12 teachers, 12 teachers assistants, two coaches, a nurse, an administrator/secretary and a janitor could cover the education requirements of my small town.

But 29 people is more than 5% of my total adult population, which seems excessive as I try to fill all the mandatory roles of a modern day community.

Have I missed any crucial role and are there any ways to reduce this staff requirements?

BTW : There is a little bit of magic involved in the isolation of this town, so adherence to state educational standards and regulations is not required. I just need the town to appear to be educating its kids appropriately. I don't need that education to actually meet local accreditation requirements.

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    $\begingroup$ Rise of Public Education in Early America "Students able to attend early nineteenth-century schools faced many challenges of their own. Children under the age of five were often times mixed in with adults in their twenties. Additionally, classrooms were frequently overcrowded, housing as many as eighty students at a time." $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 6:11
  • $\begingroup$ @AdrianColomitchi, That link is great! I can use a lot of that material in my town folk attitudes towards this expense. "Duty to God and Society" will definitely get mentioned in there somewhere. Thanks! Post this link as an Answer so I can give you some points! $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 6:25
  • $\begingroup$ Google search that I used - maybe you can find others $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 6:39
  • $\begingroup$ I am absolutely certain that for middle school and high school I had different professors teaching different disciplines. I wouldn't have wanted to learn English from the professor of mathematics, or to learn physics from the professor of Romanian. OK, in middle school probably the professor of physics could have taught us mathematics and rudimentary chemistry, and the professor of English could have taught us French too; but most certainly in high school different fields of expertise will be required. (Remember that at least some of the pupils will be bright, and will need advanced studies.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 13:08
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, @AlexP, but... context... an isolated community of 600 people is closer to the survival level. For the good of community, it would be better if the math teacher can also teach carpentry (and compute those compound angles on the faces of a square leg that leans in two direction) and the physics teacher can also teach a rudimentary of engineering (to compute the required thickness of a per-stressed concrete beam able to support the load of a bridge). Isolated community doesn't need conversational command over foreign languages, does it? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 14:04

4 Answers 4


Rise of Public Education in Early America show quite a variation in student/teachers ratio and attitudes towards public education (and the expense for it).

I guess it may provide some ideas to the meta-question of "How much education a community actually needs and to what social ends?" as a prerequisite in answering "How many teachers an isolated American small town with about 500 residents and 100 kids needs and how many it can actually afford?"

I lean strongly towards "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance Derek Bok" and, not being an American, it was quite an insightful reading about the evolution of education in US


the Puritan community began implementing new laws such as the Old Deluder Act of 1647. This decree, “ordered that every township in this jurisdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to fifty households shall forthwith appoint one within their town to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and read.”

going through

Northwest Ordinance of 1787, stating that; “religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”


Jefferson contended that “public happiness… should be rendered by liberal education worthy to receive, and able to guard the sacred deposit of the rights and liberties of their fellow citizens.” Jefferson spread the idea that a functional democracy required an educated citizenry

then having the brakes put on

  1. Taxpayers worried that public education would result in higher taxes or that it would wrongly take money out of the pockets of the working-class to fund education for the rich.
  2. Churches contended that public schools would fail to teach religion sufficiently, especially as prejudice towards immigrants and Catholics grew in major urban areas.
  3. Private school teachers feared that they would face lower pay or even lose their jobs.

(and the story doesn't end there)


100 kids through 12 grades makes about 9 kids per grade.

1 teacher and 1 teacher assistant per grade seems way too much. For all my primary school I have had a single teacher following about 25 kids.

You can remove the teacher assistant and merge 3 grades in a single class under 1 teacher, with the oldest kids also helping with the youngest.

In this way you end up with just 3 teachers, which is manageable for a small community. Add 1 janitor, 1 principal and 1 administrator. If you need the nurse, you will rely on staff's first aid knowledge for simple cases, else you will call the village doctor.

Total 6 people to manage the school.

  • $\begingroup$ Great numbers! Way easier to make work for my setting. Thanks! +1 $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 6:15
  • $\begingroup$ Merging 3 grades under 1 teacher seems impractical. While it would work in numbers, in curriculum it would be horrible to deal with. The things being taught to a 7th & an 9th grader would be to different to merge into 1 class. Although for grades 6 & under it could probably work $\endgroup$
    – OT-64 SKOT
    Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ How are you suggesting teaching different subjects? Having a teacher capable of teaching 12th grade maths, physics, biology, English, etc. seems a bit much. $\endgroup$
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 19:21

I think I may be able to contribute a little bit from my own experience. I grew up in a rural area in Sweden (not US as in the question, but a country with high, modern standard of education) in the 1980's, in a village of roughly 600 people (about 300 in the main village, the rest scattered in smaller villages and isolated farms). I also know about others who have been schooled in similar sized villages, and know teachers who have worked in such schools.

The main thing my answer will say that differs from the the question and the other answers, that I think can be helpful to make a realistic story, is that there will not be as clear cut job descriptions as in the question. With so few people, your job description will be based on how you can be useful rather than an organization chart. (There won't be any "the janitor", there will be a "Martin".)

Our school was only grade 1-6, grades 7-9 was bussed around 1h away, the higher 3 to the nearest larger town also around 1h away.

All staff on these kinds of schools do multiple roles. Actually, all people in these kinds of villages do multiple roles.

For the grades 1-6, any adult with kid-handling-skills can teach all subjects except four: Sports and health, music, arts, shop. So, they had one class each but helped each other out on the subjects that required some special skills.

The school was divided in three classes:

1-2, the main teacher of which also took care of all education in sewing/knitting/etc shop-classes, and was the administrator and secretary of the school.

3-4, the main teacher of which also took care of sports for the 1-2, and taught all shop classes aimed at cooking/cleaning/etc. She also had arts, and was the librarian. The cooking etc. classes was not taught in the school but in her own kitchen. (Her property shared a border with the schoolyard. I think the unclear distinction between the school playground and her pretty garden, and the teaching involving knives and hot objects inside her home, might have made some insurance companies balk...)

She also had the after-school-activities for the kids who had to wait a bit longer for their parents to be able to pick them up, but that was not administered by the school - it was administered by the church.

5-6, the main teacher of which also was the headmaster, and took care of all music education.

Then there was a stereotypical manly-man, who taught sports, metal and wood-related shop, and was responsible for upkeep of the facilities. He was also one half of the two-man-team taking care of the gardening and the snow-plowing for the school and the church. (The school and the church were closely intertwined.)

Finally, there were two ladies doing the catering and the cleaning.

There was a nurse, but she was only present some hour per day. Rather than school nurse, she was the nurse for the whole village, driving around over the whole district checking up on elderly people - but with her office in the school building. (Which meant that even if she had only very limited office hours dedicated to the school children, she was passing by and could deal with emergencies several times per day.)

Other friend have gone to schools with setups of 1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9. 1-3 works fine, but higher grades than that can only be two at the times.

For grades 7-up you will need to have specialized teachers. They can realistically manage two specializations each. But they can all manage the lower grades.

The kids will need to be kept busy the whole school day, any gaps will lead to delinquent behaviours really quickly. But the younger kids have shorter days, and no kids have as long days as the adults.

So if you have one teacher per two years, you can cover the needed specializations, and still some. Three of them will have to be main teachers for the younger, but there will still be room for them to teach the olders - a bit of headache for the headmaster to piece the schedule together but fully possible. (Do not forget that also the headmaster can take quite many classes, even be one of the specializations.)

The support staff can take on some classes, but also be shared with church or home for elderly people. For example, cooking can be made both for the school, for any institution for elderly people, etc. that might exists.

So, i believe you will need:

  • 6 teachers (if you really have all 12 grades), each with their different skills and interests. One of them double as headmaster, one of them double as administrator. They all do other small roles based on personality, skills and interests. (Librarian, therapist, school bus driver, whatever is needed...)

  • 1 handyman, that also can handle teaching - and gardening. The handyman is shared with the church, which also shares their caretaker with the school - because many of their tasks simply require two hands 4-6 meters apart!

  • 2 part-time cooks (and tasks for them for the rest of the time) - also here you simply must have more hands to be able to feed all 100 children at lunchtime, but then there will plenty of day left for those hands! (It is not impossible that teachers help out also with the serving.)

  • Some nurse in the village, the priest, many other people; they will have small roles in the school. For example, in my village the school and the church shared a tractor for plowing snow. But it can often be the farmer on the nearest farm that get paid for keeping the paths clean with his tractor.

Frankly, the last three years of education are nothing but more specialization. I have a hard time believing there will be more than 8-9 years of schooling in an isolated village of such small size. Those wanting higher education will find a way to leave for a few years. Some of those who left then come back with their new skills (and a spouse, bringing in new blood, fighting the obvious inbreeding problem).

Actually, considering how important the school is for a society (our children are our future!), I think 5% of the population involved in the school is a severe underestimation. My guess would be that at least 20-25% of the adult population have at least some minor involvement in the school as volunteers!

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for an amazingly useful answer! I will definitely apply much of what you have offered here. The school can become a central interaction point for a wide variety of characters in my book which is perfect for several of the subplots which lacked a locale to occur in. Many, Many Thanks! $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 22:45

I'm approaching this as a Fermi-Problem, an estimate of numbers from proportions.

100 Children

They will have to be divided into groups or classes. With just 100 children, it is probably impractical to have one group each for K-12. Call it 6 groups with 16.7 students each.

6 Classes

A teacher may give fewer hours of classroom instruction per week than a student gets per week, depending on the grade. But on average the numbers can be roughly the same magnitude. So you average one teacher per class. There may be arrangements like part-time substitute teachers, but that can be considered an accounting fiction when several people share one full-time-position equivalent.

On top of that come a higher need for staff in the kindergarten group and some loose supervision of the older kids during library time or whatever. Call it 1 full-time-position-equivalent each.

8 Teaching-or-similar staff

Just how much in the way of management and support should an organization with 8 "frontline workers" need? That can differ with the expectation for paperwork and documentation, but I don't really think it should be more than 1.

That 1 support staff might be a quarter-time secretary, a quarter-time janitor and a half-time cleaner. The principal position is a "second hat" for one of the teachers.

On top of that, catering.

If the children and staff eat at school, lunch has to come from somewhere. With just 500 people total, that might be a second or third job for the people in the local diner, before the adult customers come in after work, or it could be employees of the school. That staff also depends on the availability of prepared ingredients.

This estimate is sensitive to assumptions of class sizes and teaching hours per teacher. How long do they need to grade exams?

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    $\begingroup$ There's no need for the school to provide meals. The kids can be sent to school with their lunches. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ Acually I hardly ever ate lunch at school. My urban grade school had a very long lunch break for some reason and I usually walke home for lunchand then half a mile back to school after lunch. When I was 11 we movied to a suburban town where our house was next door to the grade school playground and only a block from thehigh school, So I continued to come home for lunch. I only ate lunch in the high school cafeteria once. Some schools allow children to bring their own lunch, and maybe some schools require it. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 20:31

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