Students interested in attending a controversial Africentric school will be able to start registering at the end of the month.

The Africentric Alternative School will educate up to 120 children from junior kindergarten to Grade 5 and is open to students of all backgrounds.

The school is set to open in September 2009. It is to be located at Sheppard Public School at 1430 Sheppard Ave. W., or just west of Keele Street. A mural has already been painted to welcome visitors, but a principal must be hired -- something that will be based on merit.

"We cannot establish the racial background of any staff that we hire. We establish the qualifications of what we are looking for, in terms of skills and experience, and then people will come forward," said the board's Lloyd McKell.

A curriculum is yet to be established.

However, it will "integrate the diverse perspectives, experiences and histories of people of African descent into the provincial mandated curriculum," said a school board news release.

"The program will also promote understanding and respect for all cultures, and will emphasize teamwork, problem-solving, leadership, and the values of compassion, personal and social responsibility."

The board approved the approach in late January by an 11-9 vote.

Supporters say an Africentric school will improve the academic performance of black youth. Currently, about half of black male teens don't early the 16 credits required by the end of Grade 10, according to the school board.

Detractors have said such a school could leave children further divided.

Trustee Josh Matlow said he wonders if a full-time principal is needed for the school. "I question if they're going to be able get the enrolment that they need in order to merit the expense that the school board is going to have to put towards this school," he said.

Trustee James Pasternak said the school will prove its worth.

"This is an opportunity to keep our kids in our schools, offering them unique and creative programs, and not have them venture into other jurisdictions," he said.

Public information sessions about the school will begin on Nov. 25.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Galit Solomon