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As students return from winter break, schools across California are struggling to stay open amid severe staffing shortages, high student absences and increased infection rates as the Omicron variant surge continues to sweep through the region.

The San Gabriel school system has shut down a middle school and high school for Thursday and Friday. The Redondo Beach district is handing out rapid-results tests to families as fast as it can. Montebello Unified is scrambling to find tests and faces a critical shortage of substitute teachers to fill in for sick staff. Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second-largest school system, is having its second, closed-session emergency Board of Education meeting of the week as it prepares for opening on Monday.

Similar problems have emerged across the state. In San Diego County, Helix Charter High in La Mesa is closing temporarily and switching to online learning for the rest of this week because too many of its staff have tested positive for a coronavirus infection. And Cathedral Catholic High in Carmel Valley postponed its first day of school from Thursday to Monday because many students and staff tested positive at on-campus testing conducted this week.

In San Francisco, a group of teachers refused to wait for a positive test result — or to see if district safety practices are sufficient. They announced plans for a sickout. That district’s teachers union has not endorsed the job action but has criticized district safety measures.

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