WINDSOR, ONT. -- Students, parents and teachers are bracing for an education experience like no other, and many local students won’t be heading back to school until Thursday — but at A21 Academy, classes are in session.

While getting used to all the new rules including wearing a mask all day will take some time, the bright spot on Tuesday was a chance to ‘lace-up’ and get on the ice once again.

“It’s my first day at this academy and it is great so far,” said student Jack Pracey.

It wasn’t all fun, students still hit the books hard.

Kristi Spidalieri, the founder of A21 Academy, is thankful to be open and wanted her students to understand this first day of school is unlike any other they have or may go through in their lifetime.

“There are so many kids that aren’t in school today and who are not able to skate,” she said. “Take it like you mean it. Feel grateful the first time you step on because we’ve all been waiting so long.

Spidalieri welcomed 53 students to school and says there could be more in the coming days.

“We’re like our own little cohort as it is,” she said. “We’re just over 50 so we don’t have all the restrictions. My heart goes out to the teachers, the admins, people just getting ready for 50 to 60 a lot. I can’t imagine what they’re all going through.

The kids are happy to be back.

“To be back on the ice and in the classroom is just awesome for our kids,” said Robb Serviss the school’s director of hockey and head coach.

The classrooms have changed to accommodate the health and safety of students.

“I don’t know if I have fears but it’s a little different,” said Pracey. “We’re all on computer when at the public school we’d all be on paper.”

Desks are six metres apart and students are wearing masks unless they are having a snack break or have a medical condition.

“At the end of the day it’s no different than walking in a grocery store so for me there’s no fear or anything,” said teacher Jordan Brescacin.

“I think the big thing is everybody just has to be fluid with the situation and just know that it’s always changing and protocols will change and to just go with it,” he continued.

All three school boards in Windsor-Essex, public, Catholic and French start welcoming students back on Thursday.