- Associated Press - Friday, September 30, 2016

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - A Mississippi school board is apologizing after the superintendent was quoted saying the district might consider an optional separate school to try to boost low-income students’ academic achievement.

The Oxford school district has no plan to create a separate school for any group, including students receiving free or reduced lunch, the school board said in a statement Friday.

In a state not many decades removed from segregation, the board also said: “We will not tolerate segregation on the basis of socioeconomic status or race.”

The Oxford Eagle reported (https://bit.ly/2dhNdWx ) that about 200 people, many of them black parents and students, protested after the Oxford High School student newspaper, The Charger, published an article Thursday in which Superintendent Brian Harvey said the district had looked at an opt-in Virginia school focusing on achievement for low-income students.

The Oxford school board said Friday that the district had invited representatives of Urban Learning and Leadership Center to present information about the center’s programs in Virginia, Louisiana, Texas and other places.

“One of their success stories is a school in Virginia where some low socioeconomic students do have the option of attending a separate school intended to provide support not offered in the other schools,” the Oxford board said in its statement. “However, again, we have no plans to create a separate school and will move forward only with participation of the Oxford community.”

Mississippi had a 22 percent poverty rate in 2015, the highest in the nation, according to recently released Census Bureau figures. The Oxford School District website shows that 48.6 percent of the district’s students received free or reduced lunch in May, the most recent figure available.

The school board did not dispute the report in the high school newspaper , where Harvey was quoted as saying: “There is a correlation between achievement and poverty.”

The Mississippi Department of Education issues A-through-F academic ratings for its school districts, like a report card. In the most recent ratings released in July, 146 districts were rated for the 2014-15 academic year, and Oxford was among the 19 receiving an A.

Enrollment in the Oxford district last school year was about 4,300 students, with 53 percent white and 36 percent black. The district says on its website that it has an 88 percent graduation rate, which is higher than the state rate of about 81 percent for 2015-16.

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