Clare Lombardo

Elia Garrison was already considering holding her son Dominic back from starting kindergarten before the pandemic hit in 2020.

Coronavirus, she says, cemented that choice.

Dominic is the fifth of six children, and Garrison, a blogger in Perkasie, Pa., watched how tumultuous classes were for her older ones when the pandemic started. "I didn't want Dominic to have that experience with kindergarten, because kindergarten is such an important year for them," she says.

The American Academy of Pediatrics released updated guidance for schools Monday, recommending that all students over 2 years old, along with staff, wear masks, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

A federal judge has blocked a challenge to Indiana University's requirement that students get vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to campus this fall. Indiana University is one of hundreds of colleges mandating COVID-19 vaccinations this year.

The U.S. Department of Education says it will erase the federal student loan debts of tens of thousands of borrowers who can no longer work because they have significant disabilities. It's a small but important step toward improving a shambolic, bureaucratic process for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable borrowers who are legally entitled to debt relief, but haven't received it.

If you've ever voted in-person, you've been helped by a poll worker: they've checked you in and pointed you in the right direction to cast your ballot. Maybe it was your retired neighbor, even a family member or former teacher, greeting you at the polls year after year.

This year, many of those folks are avoiding public spaces.

In any ordinary school year, school nurses are busy. This year, that's an understatement.

"Our role has expanded tenfold," says Eileen Gavin, who co-leads a team of nurses for Middletown Township Public Schools in New Jersey.

Updated Friday at 11:04 a.m. ET.

Lawmakers have called for an investigation into a troubled student loan discharge program one day after an NPR report revealed that the program — meant to erase the student debts of borrowers with significant, permanent disabilities — wasn't helping the vast majority of those who are eligible.

Earlier this year, an NPR investigation with WAMU and Oregon Public Broadcasting found deep problems in how school districts report restraint and seclusion. Following that investigation, NPR reached out to educators about their experiences with these practices.

Brent McGinn spent a year early in his career working with students who could sometimes hurt themselves.

Denise had no idea her student loans could be erased. In 2007, a truck rear-ended her car. The accident ravaged her legs and back, and the pain made it impossible for her to work.

"I have basically been in pain — chronic pain — every day," says Denise, who asked that NPR not use her full name to protect her privacy. "I live a life of going to doctors constantly."

Updated at 6:45 p.m. ET

A judge has ruled in favor of Harvard University in a high-profile court case centered on whether the school's admissions process forces Asian Americans to clear a higher bar to get in.

It's been a summer of heat waves in the Northern Hemisphere. But in Australia, a group of kangaroos is enjoying wintry conditions.

Stephen Grenfell captured their joy as the troop leaped across open fields, undeterred by the cold, wet ground just north of Goulburn, in New South Wales.

Updated 5:30 p.m.

Thousands of guns have been turned in to New Zealand police as part of a nationwide gun buyback program created after a massacre earlier this year left 51 people dead.

Following attacks on two Christchurch mosques, New Zealand's parliament voted overwhelmingly to ban most semi-automatic weapons along with certain kinds of ammunition and large-capacity magazines.

The first time that Simone Biles performed a triple-double at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Kansas City, she wasn't pleased. After soaring through the air to complete two flips and three full twists on Friday, she stumbled.

On Sunday, the 22-year-old did it again — and stuck the landing. It's the first time a woman has done so in competition.

The reigning world champion finished the competition on Sunday with the U.S. all-around title. It's her sixth.

Most days, 25-year-old Chavonne can push her student loan debt to the back of her mind.

Between short-term office jobs in the Washington, D.C., area, she drives for Uber. But once in awhile, a debt collector will get hold of her cellphone number — the one she keeps changing to avoid them — and it all comes back fresh. "I'll be like, 'Oh no!' " she says. "It's a sad reminder that I owe somebody money!"

In April, she got another reminder when the government seized her tax refund.

All this for a degree she never finished.

Americans owe about $1.6 trillion in student loan debt. That's about twice the current budget for the Defense Department and around 22 times the budget for the Education Department.

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