Officials at Ardmore City Schools knew they wanted to make Robert Shackleford’s donation to Lincoln Elementary School special. 

The moment the district received word that Shackleford, a former student at Lincoln, had left his elementary school some funds with his last will and testament they began brainstorming ways his donation could be impactful for years to come. The donation came in the beginning stages of the $31 million bond proposal the district was pushing for, which would completely rebuild Lincoln Elementary from the ground up. 

The district decided to hold onto the funds for the new Lincoln Elementary building, which would allow them to create something special with Shackleford’s gift. The district wanted something that would not only be utilized by the school, but represents the family atmosphere of the elementary school. 

Once the bond issue was finalized, the district decided to honor Shackleford by using the funds to furnish a courtyard at the new elementary school—a place students and teachers go to enjoy a picnic, school-wide activities, group activities and time outside. The courtyard, only accessible from inside the building, is now completely furnished with tables and umbrellas bought with Shackleford’s donation. 

“They’ll use this a ton,” Chris Kennedy, ACS director of operations, said during an tour of the courtyard. “And it’s a great place for the kids and teachers to go, especially the younger students.” 

The courtyard is an area nuzzled between the gymnasium and the inner west wall of the elementary school. Kennedy said the courtyard saw a lot of use in its first year. This summer, the district purchased the tables and umbrellas and have plans for more furnishings in the courtyard, which has quickly become a favorite “secret” area for teachers and students. 

To honor Shackleford and his gift, the district purchased a plaque, which will be mounted on the outer wall of the courtyard. The plaque reads: “Robert Shackleford Memorial Courtyard” and contains a message that states “You have never really lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” 

“Every time students walk through this courtyard or spend time in here they’ll see that plaque and know about his gift,” Kennedy said. 

Kennedy said he expects Lincoln students and teachers to spend a lot of time in the courtyard, either as a gathering place or just as a location to spend some time outside. The area works perfectly for outside classroom sessions and activities, picnics and a secluded reading location. Kennedy said the plaque will be mounted in place soon and the school and district will begin looking at options for additional items in the courtyard. 

“Anytime we can get something like that it’s not only helpful it’s just an honor,” Kim Holland, ACS superintendent, said of the donation that made the courtyard possible. “We’re extremely grateful to him and his family.”