At the time of the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., one-fourth of Beaufort County's 32 public schools had not yet held a lockdown drill this year, according to district data provided at the request of The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette.
Since the newspapers' Feb. 22 request and in the wake of the shooting — in which 14 students and three educators were killed — all eight of those schools have held drills.
Starting next school year, Beaufort County public schools will hold lockdown drills more frequently and possibly at more unexpected times in the school day. The school district's central office will also start tracking when individual schools hold drills — something they had not been doing.
A lockdown drill prepares students for the unthinkable — an active shooter situation — with instructions on where to hide out of sight from a shooter. Depending on a classroom's configuration, this may mean students crouching in a closet, corner or behind bookshelves.
While the majority of schools hold lockdown drills, there is no state law requiring them to do so, according to S.C. Department of Education spokesman Ryan Brown.
The district's safety protocol up to this point has required schools to hold at least one lockdown drill per school year, though individual principals could choose to have more than one drill, district spokesman Jim Foster wrote in an email.
Starting next school year, the district will require schools to hold at least one lockdown drill every three months.
The drills have typically been held during class time, but schools may now schedule the drills to take place at more unexpected times, such as lunchtime or recess.
"You never know when there’s a possibility of a shooter coming on campus," Superintendent Jeff Moss said at Tuesday night's Beaufort County Board of Education meeting.
Prompted by school safety-related concerns from parents, The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette requested a list of all schools' lockdown drill dates for the 2017-18 school year. At the time, no such list existed, but in the weeks since, the district compiled a roundup of lockdown drills held since August 2017, which it released Tuesday.
The eight schools that had not held drills by Feb. 22 were Beaufort High, Bluffton Middle, Hilton Head Island Middle, Lady's Island Elementary, May River High, Mossy Oaks Elementary, River Ridge Academy and Whale Branch Elementary.
Six schools have held two lockdown drills this school year: Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts, Coosa Elementary, H.E. McCracken Middle, Hilton Head High School, Port Royal Elementary and Whale Branch Early College High School. Five of those schools, all but Hilton Head High, held their second drill in the weeks after the Valentine's Day shooting.
Hilton Head School for the Creative Arts Principal Gretchen Keefner said the decision to hold a second drill was not specifically because of Parkland, but after hearing feedback from law enforcement at a school safety forum.
She conferred with Assistant Principal Matthew Hunt who agreed, "(A second lockdown drill) is probably not a bad idea."
Two school resource officers, along with district protective services coordinator David Grissom, oversaw the school's second drill held March 13. Keefner recalls law enforcement rattling classroom doors during the drill, which teachers later said created a more realistic scenario.
Coosa Elementary had always planned to hold at least two drills, a decision made before the school year started, Principal Charles DelForge wrote in an email.
There are two bills under consideration by the S.C. Legislature that may increase the number of safety drills schools must have. The House bill would require schools to hold separate fire drills and lockdown drills at least once each month. The Senate bill would require a fire or lockdown drill at least once each month, with at least three of those annually being a lockdown drill.