It all began in 1848...
The early settlers of Prairie Lea recognized the importance of education from the town’s beginning. The first school in Prairie Lea, as well as in Caldwell County, was a log cabin built in 1848. It was also used for church services. In 1851, Joe Martin of Gonzales deeded over four acres of land for a permanent school site. The following year, Legislature granted a charter to establish the Prairie Lea Female Academy. In 1878, the Grange constructed a two-story building to be used as a school on the lower floor and as a meeting hall for the Grange on the upper floor. None of the early schools lasted.
At last, in 1925, the first five rooms of the present public school building were erected on the four acres deeded over by Martin. The next year, in 1926, five additional rooms were added to accommodate the increased enrollment brought on by the oil boom in the area. In 1927, a gymnasium was added to the school. It was the first to be built in the county. The following year, a Home Economics room was added. Two more classrooms and an auditorium were added in 1931. By this time $90,000 had been spent to build Prairie Lea School - a small amount in contrast to today’s building costs.
In 1939, the Prairie Lea Indians Football Team was generally recognized as the Interscholastic League Champion of all South Texas. Team member Hans McCartney was selected by The American Boy as quarterback on the Six-Man All-American Team in recognition of his ability in scoring 162 points.
In 1944 and 1945, the Prairie Lea Indians Basketball team won the Class B State Basketball Championship. Many of these schoolboys went on to college where they studied law, medicine, and education. Team member George Carlisle became a six-time state winning basketball coach.
In 1946, Esther Deviney organized the Melody Maids singing group. Also, the Prairie Lea Band was recognized as outstanding and performed frequently all over the state. The Band earned First Division ratings individually and as a group.
Again, in 1952, the Arrows and the Indians proved their athletic ability by reaching the regional playoffs. The Indians missed the State Tournament by only two points.
In 1954, Prairie Lea School was completely remodeled, and since then, it has undergone several improvements and additions, including a shop building, several additional classrooms, a library, weight rooms in the gym, and a football stadium (when the football program was revived in 2002).
Other highlights in Prairie Lea School’s story include advancing to the Class A State One-Act Play Contest in 1974, 1975, and 1976. The Players came in second in the State in 1974 and became State Champions in 1975. Suzy Hensley in 1974, and Molly Pitts in 1975, were named Best Actresses in the State. Today, students continue to have the opportunity to perform in high school and junior high school play performances and contests.
In 1979, Eric Miles won the Running High Jump event at the State Meet. His sister, Jo Nell Miles, won the State Triple Jump and High Jump event at the State Meet in 1983. In the 1980s, Prairie Lea High School’s dance team appeared regularly and won many awards for their performances.
Two Apple computers made their debut at Prairie Lea School in 1983, thus ushering in the use of computer technology as a learning tool. Gradually, more technology was added. In 1994, a state-of-the-art, 25-station computer lab was installed. Prairie Lea School had entered cyberspace. By 2000, the lab had been upgraded several times, and the school also had installed computers in every classroom and soon added an elementary computer lab.
In 1991, Jesse Vega and Nicole Grubbs both won Bluebonnet Electric’s Oratorical Contest trip award to Washington, D.C. Both students were chosen best all-around of all the winners in the area, and Jesse was selected to place a wreath on the grave of the Unknown Soldier. Kathy Pitts had also won the Bluebonnet trip award in 1968.
Since the early 1990s, Prairie Lea’s VICA team, sponsored by Shelly Hardaway, has won numerous awards for their Building Trades and Small Engine Repair projects. For the past several years, the science department has sponsored a science fair, which provided students from all grades the opportunity to participate. A local chapter of the National Honor Society was established in 2003. The Arrows Volleyball Team has captured the district title more than once during the past several years.
Academically, Prairie Lea School continues to be accredited and strives to provide every student with an opportunity to reach his or her full potential. For 2004, the school received an accountability rating of “Recognized” for Grades K-12. In 2005, 2006, & 2007, it was rated as “Academically Acceptable.”