As millions of American students head back to their desks, the virus testing that was supposed to help keep classrooms open safely is itself being tested.

In California, storms over the winter break destroyed a million coronavirus test kits that were meant to help schools screen returning students. In Seattle schools, children waited for hours for virus testing, some in a driving rain. In Florida this month, an attempt to supply tests to teachers in Broward County turned up expired kits.

And in Chicago, a labor dispute, partly over testing, kept students out of school for a week.

As millions of American students head back to their desks — Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school district, started classes on Tuesday — the coronavirus testing that was supposed to help keep classrooms open safely is itself being tested. In much of the country, things are not going well.

Slammed by the ultra-contagious Omicron variant, pressured by political factions, baffled by conflicting federal guidance and hamstrung by a national shortage of rapid-test kits, many districts have struggled to ramp up or effectively establish testing programs. In many areas, schools have already had to close in recent weeks because flawed screenings have allowed infected children and teachers to return to class, putting others at risk.

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