The Toronto District School Board will add a specialized middle school for the arts to its list of public institutions. The announcement comes at a time when the board is trying to sell or rent 100 surplus properties.

The board voted last week to open the new school in Etobicoke this September at a facility the TDSB vacated 20 years ago. The property is currently being rented by a private Montessori school.

Ejecting the current tenants from the property will cause the school board to lose money, when the middle school could easily be placed somewhere else, said Trustee Scott Harrison, a critic of the plan.

"I think we could find another facility -- maybe somewhere in the same area -- that is 50-60% enrollment and can be housed within existing space," he said. "So in other words you don't have to have another principle, secretary or caretaker in the system."

Enrollment in public schools is dwindling and the board is finding it doesn't have enough students to fill up their properties.

Over the years, the public school system has lost 30,000 students, leaving the board with 100 properties that are either vacant or leased. It costs about $40 million to maintain.

However, the trustee for the area said the new arts school is just the kind of boost the public system needs.

"To have these centres where children who have a special need or an opportunity to really turn children on, infusing the curriculum with the arts, I think that's what makes public education great," said School Trustee Bruce Davis. "It's not one size fits all.

Davis argued the new school will increase the board's enrollment because it would attract students back from the private school system.

"If we wait until we have a surplus before we do anything new, we'll never have anything new," he said.

The middle school, which does not yet have a name, will be located just across the street from the Etobicoke School of the Arts. The two institutions are expected to work closely together by sharing resources.

It is expected to accommodate 120 students in grade six and seven. School officials hope to add grade eight students to the curriculum a year later.

With a report from Janice Golding