School, library idea difficult to imagine

York County and Rock Hill school district officials are smart to consider teaming up to build a library downtown that would serve both the general public and a possible magnet high school. But we're not convinced yet that the idea would work.

The Rock Hill school district has discussed opening a magnet school downtown that could delay the need for a fourth traditional high school. The magnet school wouldn't need ball fields or as much land as a traditional school.

Meanwhile, York County's main branch is cramped. The county included plans for a new main branch in a massive bond referendum last year. But voters soundly rejected the bond proposal, which also included proposed new service centers and a jail expansion.

York County Councilman Rick Lee is supporting the idea of combining the magnet school's need for a library with the county's need for a new main branch.

The idea is intriguing because a magnet school and a new library would boost development in downtown Rock Hill. Also, the Rock Hill Aquatics Center -- a partnership between the schools and the YMCA -- has proven the district can successfully partner with other York County agencies.

Still, we have serious questions about the feasibility of combining a public school library with one that's open to the general public. Letting large numbers of students interact with the general public during the school day creates some safety concerns.

York County Library Director Colleen Carney said the library attracts a diverse group of people.

"We see the homeless, we see the mentally ill," she said. "We're a public space, and it's part of what you deal with when you're free and open to the general public. You've got to be prepared for some of the behaviors you see ... that doesn't always go hand-in-hand with a safe, constructive school environment."

We congratulate Lee, school district officials and others for thinking creatively about pooling resources for the public's benefit. We hope they can make the library idea work. But we know they agree that student safety must be paramount. And it's hard imagine an arrangement where than can happen.

York County, Rock Hill school district face hurdle in blending magnet high school with public library.