PARAMUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The Centers for Disease Control says the risk of COVID-19 spreading in schools is small and based on new research it says schools can reopen during the pandemic.

But as CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported Wednesday, the key to returning to school lies outside the classroom.

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The Frisch High School in Paramus has been open since the fall. Students have been learning in the classroom full time, without remote instruction.

Dr. Jennifer Blanck teaches chemistry.

“My principal and the administration have taken a lot of steps to keep us open because it’s just so important to have students in school,” Blanck said. “We taught outside for a while, intense, until it was too cold not to.”

COVID VACCINE

The school also follows strict mask and social distancing rules, which is what the CDC says can make it possible for students to learn in person during the pandemic.

Melanie Lekaj has four children, including two in hybrid schools in Ringwood.

“It feels really safe. On the days that I send them to school, it doesn’t feel like they’re in danger,” she said.

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But there is a caveat. Based on a CDC study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, scientists say infection rates remain low when local communities also exercise limits to indoor dining, gyms, and social gatherings.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Jennifer Grom, a high school teacher in Bergen County, said there lies the hurdle. She’s keeping her three children at home for now.

“A lot of the things mentioned in the CDC guidelines are politically unpopular things, like closing indoor dining and closing gyms,” Grom said.

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The CDC says limiting high-risk activities like indoor sports will also limit the spread in schools.

“As a mom who is just aching for normalcy and for her kids to be back in school, I want that, but I want it when it’s right,” Grom said.

Scientists say there is little evidence to show schools cause large outbreaks, and that won’t change if everyone in and outside school does their part.

According to a CDC survey of nearly 15,000 schools nationwide, only 17% were open for full in-person learning in the fall.

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Hazel Sanchez