On Tuesday 115 Toronto students made history as the first class to don uniforms and occupy desks at the city's new Africentric Alternative School.

Students were greeted on their first day by African drummers who played at a school assembly, while children sang O Canada and the Black National Anthem.

Images of famous black leaders from throughout history are hung on the walls of the school, located in the northwest end of the city.

"It is important for students and parents to have as many choices as possible to have success for their children," said Donna Harrow, a parent who had been among those lobbying for the program.

Students at the controversial school will be taught using Ontario Ministry of Education curriculum, but lessons will be delivered from an Africentric perspective.

Students will wear uniforms of white shirts and either black pants or skirts, with vests made of green, yellow and black Ghanian fabric.

The school, which can hold 150, will initially house students up to Grade 5, with a plan to add a grade level each following year.

Supporters of the program hope it will help solve the 40 per cent dropout rate among black students in the Toronto District School Board.

The program is one of four new alternative programs in the board, bringing the total to 41 out of about 580 schools.

"We do have marginalized communities. We do have students from all over the world," said trustee James Pasternack.

"Some don't even speak English. Many have not even been in a traditional school before. And we absolutely have to be creative in our programming."

However, opponents such as school trustee Josh Matlow feel the board could better focus its resources elsewhere.

"We have schools that are crumbling, we've got sports fields in bad shape and a dearth of staff and programs in all our hundreds of schools across Toronto," Matlow told CTV Toronto.

"This isn't the time to be taking money and throwing it into different projects and experiments. We've got to rebuild our system."

With a report from CTV Toronto's Dana Levenson