Oxford Superintendent Brian Harvey speaks to a group of people outside Oxford Middle School. Credit: The Charger

About 100 students and parents protested a proposal to create a new school for low-income students in Oxford.

The rally came Thursday after Oxford High School’s newspaper The Charger published an article in which Superintendent Brian Harvey said he had invited an education group from Virginia to discuss the possibility of creating a separate school for low-income students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. The goal of the new school, he told the paper, would be to close the achievement gap in the district.

Harvey told Mississippi Today that parents could choose whether or not to send their children to the school.

“It would be totally voluntary,” he said Thursday evening.

In June, representatives from a group affiliated with An Achievable Dream Middle and High School in Newport, Va., made a presentation to the Oxford school board detailing how it created a separate school for low-income students and increased its academic achievement level as a result.

Harvey said district officials will be visiting the school in late November, but that no decisions have been made.

“A decision hasn’t been made to do that nor has it been made not do that,” Harvey said.

He said school officials have already visited Antioch High School in Nashville to look at what it has done to increase its graduation rate to 77 percent.

Oxford High School student Jaquan Webb attended the protest at the middle school Thursday night because he believes the creation of a separate school would disproportionately impact blacks and low-achieving students.

“They’re just banning some people (out of the school) to get the (test) score higher,” Webb said of the intentions to create separate schools.

He said the decision to create a new school “would affect everybody” and end up creating racially segregated schools.

Protesters had mostly dispersed by around 7 p.m., according to the Charger’s Twitter, but Oxford High School students planned a meeting before school Friday morning.

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Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.

Adam Ganucheau, as Mississippi Today's editor-in-chief, oversees the newsroom and works with the editorial team to fulfill our mission of producing high-quality journalism in the public interest. Adam has covered politics and state government for Mississippi Today since February 2016. A native of Hazlehurst, Adam has worked as a staff reporter for AL.com, The Birmingham News and The Clarion-Ledger and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Adam earned his bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Mississippi.