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B.C. vows to earthquake-proof schools as two in Vancouver up for replacement

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks to media from the Rose Garden at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Oct. 4, 2017.

CHAD HIPOLITO/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Two schools in Vancouver are being replaced so they will meet modern seismic standards, part of what Premier John Horgan says is a new provincewide focus on making schools safe in the event of earthquakes.

Sir Matthew Begbie and Bayview elementary schools are slated to be replaced at a cost of $46.9-million with new buildings scheduled to open in about four years.

The government says both schools are at high risk of collapse in an earthquake.

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Education Minister Rob Fleming said Wednesday the province began talking about making Sir Matthew Begbie earthquake-proof in 2005, but it is still among 181 schools across B.C. that remain at risk of damage or collapse in an earthquake.

Horgan is promising to speed up the pace of seismic upgrades by pushing the Education Ministry, school districts and local governments to reduce the time it takes to plan and build a school.

The government has set aside $522-million over three years to upgrade schools.

"As a parent, I can't think of anything more important to parents than the safety of their children," Horgan said. "When you send your children to school you want to ensure that they are as safe as they can possibly be and that's why seismic upgrading is so important. That's why previous governments have made it a priority in rhetoric but not necessarily in reality."

Fleming said the province has spent decades discussing the problem.

"For too long, many schools with a high risk of failure in the event of an earthquake have been ignored," he said during the announcement at Sir Matthew Begbie.

"Today is about stepping up and doing the right thing."

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In Vancouver, the new Sir Matthew Begbie school will be built on the existing property and students will remain in the school during construction. Bayview Community will be demolished and built on the same footprint, so students will have to be moved in the meantime.

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