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Deferred maintenance leading to safety issues at B.C. schools: union

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Staff shortages and a lack of funding are leading to thousands of backlogged work orders for schools across the province, which a union says is leading to safety issues.

Tammy Murphy, CUPE 728 president, told CTV News Vancouver some school infrastructure has had to be rebuilt after it wasn't constructed correctly the first time. Murphy represents Surrey school district's support staff, including tradespeople and custodians.

"There's been a lot of things that I've been told we've had huge issues with and that our people have had to do," she said.

Staffing shortages have required the district to hire outside contractors. According to Murphy, the union's carpentry department has 2,500 work orders.

"It's super frustrating. It's frustrating to be in a position that you've been hired for a job and you do that job, and you do that job with pride and then someone comes in from the outside and does it," she said.

Meanwhile, B.C. School Trustees Association says it has been lobbying for more funding for years. The association says it's been told by engineers that more than $700 million will be needed in the next two yeas to address the construction backlog.

"While we appreciate the funding increases and some of the funding that's been put our way, it's just simply not enough to meet the needs," Tracy Loffler with the BCSTA told CTV News.

According to Loffler, the deferred maintenance is costing districts more in the long run, especially due to emergencies like floods and heat waves.

"In my own district we have a gymnasium floor that has had some water damage that has been continuing to accumulate and the cost to repair that is in the six figures and had almost doubled," she said.

The association will meet with B.C.'s Education Ministry this week in an effort to secure more funding. It will also release a report next month on capital projects and deferred maintenance. 

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