By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Is it safe for children to go back to school? Many are worried it might spread the virus, jeopardizing the health of people who are vulnerable.

It depends on the trend of COVID-19 in Philadelphia, which has improved but that could change.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says the goal should be to have students physically in school if that can be done safely.

Infection rates among children have been low, but they can get and spread COVID-19.

“What we really need to see is low and stable levels of the virus,” Dr. Susan Coffin, with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said.

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Coffin says the positive rate — the percentage of people infected with the virus — is a critical measure.

In Philadelphia, it’s been falling, most recently at 3%.

“I’d love to see that number go down, to be around 2% or lower. That would make, I think, many of us feel that much more confident that we will be able to take this next big step in reopening,” Coffin said.

If the situation remains the same in Philadelphia, would Coffin feel comfortable sending her kids to school?

“I think the answer is yes, but, and the but would be, am I able to coach my children to understand how they can contribute to making sure that their school, their friends at school and their teacher are kept safe?” Coffin said.

Is it realistic to think that children are going to follow safety guidelines of wearing masks and social distancing and things like that?

“I think that we are now into probably month five in Philadelphia of living this way and I suspect that almost all children have begun to adapt to this new way of interacting,” Coffin said.

Coronavirus safety measures could be more challenging for younger students. They’ll need practice, reminders and support.

“I think it’s important to remember that children are resilient,” Coffin said.

Coffin says being out of school has been massively disruptive and students will need some extra TLC.

“The need for support — psychological, emotional and material — is likely to be pretty profound,” Coffin said.

In Israel, a resurgence of the virus is being blamed on schools opening in May. Health officials are hoping that doesn’t happen here.

Stephanie Stahl