The University of Toronto and its affiliated high school, the University of Toronto Schools (UTS), have reached a tentative agreement to renew the secondary school’s lease for an additional 50 years. This deal comes after the University of Toronto rejected a $48-million proposal to refurbish UTS in 2011 and stated that the lease would not be renewed. The UTS would have had to vacate the premises by 2021.
The school, located at Bloor and Spadina, has been standing since 1910 and began as an all-boys’ school affiliated with the university.
According to Scott Mabury, U of T vice-president university operations, the decision not to renew the lease began in 2006 when administrative support for UTS was on the decline and questions were raised about the economic viability of the school. Since that time, UTS has stepped up to the plate and demonstrated its operational financial stability, in addition to tightening its relationships with various faculties at U of T including the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, the Rotman school of Commerce, and the Munk School of Global Affairs. This demonstration prompted three years of discussions beginning in 2012, which resulted in the new tentative agreement.
The relationship between U of T and UTS has evolved on a mutually beneficial basis. While UTS reports to the provost informationally, the university does not have a say over the curriculum or activities of the school.
According to Jim Fleck, chair of the board at UTS, the new lease comes with renovations to the 105-year-old building, which is also a heritage site. These renovations include 70,000 square feet of refurbished space as well as 70,000 square feet of new space behind the building.
These proposed renovations will be conducted in phases over the course of four years, during which time students will still be able to attend the school. Changes to the historic building include a renewal of the façade, the addition of a 700-seat auditorium, modernized labs, a double gymnasium, and a black box theatre.
Fleck predicts that the cost of the renovations will be in the ballpark of $55 million and will be fundraised by UTS. According to Mabury, U of T will not be paying for the renovations, which contributed to the university’s decision to continue its relationship with the school.
Mabury said that U of T students would also benefit from the new lease. “U of T students will have access to the new auditorium that will be built for large classes and new courses, and while the university will pay operation costs, the building costs will be paid by UTS,” he said.
U of T’s highest governing body, the Governing Council, still needs to approve the agreement. The vote is set for December 15. Following the vote, the renovations will follow a formal process of approvals prior to commencing construction.