01/17/2012 06:32 EST | Updated 03/18/2012 05:12 EDT

TDSB starting new specialized schools

The Toronto District School Board has begun taking on-line registrations for five new so-called academies that are designed to engage students in specialized areas such as music and sports.

The five specialized programs, spread over nine schools, will include all-girls programs, all-boys, sports and wellness, health and wellness and vocal music.

Dayapreet Dhaliwal, a Grade 8 student at Humberwood Downs Junior Middle Academy, already attends an all-girls' class.

"Last year I was in a co-ed class and, when I compare it, I think I'm much more comfortable here," she said. "And my grades are also better."

Marguerite Campbell , a central co-ordinating principal with the board, said the academies offer students opportunities they couldn't get otherwise.

"We have kids in our system who have a passion for music [but] their families cannot give them private music lessons."

The academies will be housed within nine existing schools, all of which are facing declining enrollment.

Unlike some specialized schools in other boards, elementary students will not have to try out or audition.

If demand exceeds space, a lottery system will determine admissions.