Cavanaugh School District #81 was established in 1895 for students in grades 1 - 8. The Methodist Church in Cavanaugh deeded two acres with a one-room white framed building to be used as the school and a house for the school teacher to reside. The church also used the school facility for Sunday activities. Many social events were also held in the original building.
In 1916, a new two-story red brick building was constructed. The school consisted of two downstairs classrooms and a divided auditorium upstairs. Grades 1 - 6 were on the first floor and grades 7 - 8 were taught on the upper floor. Coal provided heat for the building while a small well furnished water for the school. High school was added dfor the 1924-1925 school year. The first graduating class in 1928 consisted of two students. The last graduating class of Cavanaugh High School, the class of 1946, had seven graduates. The largest graduating class had 12 students.
Renovations to the school campus in 1925, 1930 and 1936 included a library, lunchroom, and additional classrooms. Cavanaugh community members donated the labor and materials for the projects. The continued willingness of Cavanaugh community members has made the school successful for decades. The influence of the church and the closeness of the community fostered principles for living as productive citizens.
Faced with a lack of funds and teachers as well as low enrollment at the high school level, the people of Cavanaugh voted to consolidate Cavanaugh District #81 with the Fort Smith Public Schools. The consolidation became official in 1950. Beginning in 1946, senior high students from Cavanaugh went to Fort Smith. However, grades 1 - 9 continued to be taught at Cavanaugh until 1950. After that time, only grades 1 - 6 continued at the school.
In 1963, the current building opened. The 1916 structure was torn down in 1968 when Beard Elementary opened. Beard began serving students in the Cavanaugh community residing on the east side of Highway 271. Kindergarten students began attending Cavanaugh in 1973. In 2004, The Fort Smith School District acquired additional acreage to the north and northwest sides of the school for additional play space and for future expansion.
More recently, The Fort Smith School District added nine new classrooms, a new office complex, and a new library to Cavanaugh school. Cavanaugh now houses pre-k through 6th grades and has become a showcase school. In addition, the land across the street, which once housed a mobile home park has now been added to the Cavanaugh Elementary property. This land has become Cavanaugh Park with a walking trail, pavilion, ball fields, exercise equipment, etc. and is now used by the school and the community. Many friends, partners in education, and grants, as well as the Cavanaugh PTA have made this beautiful park possible. Cavanaugh's PTA continues to work to provide funding for a fence to further enhance the park.
Class of 1946