About 12,000 elementary students in Windsor-Essex will be heading to the virtual classroom on the first day back to school and can expect a structured learning experience.

“There really are several teams of people who have been working for weeks to create things like curriculums packages, to do school organization, to set up a communication system because these things are new and we’re having to re-create a lot of it,” Dustin O’Neil, principal of Greater Essex Virtual School tells CTV News.

Approximately 8,500 elementary students with the public school board are scheduled to start online classes on Sept. 16, with orientation days starting Sept. 14.

Around 3,600 elementary remote learners with the Catholic school board will start on Sept. 14.

“The day will be structured very much like a regular school day attending in person and we begin at 8:30 a.m. and we end at 3:00 p.m.,” Rosemary Lofaso, Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board superintendent, said.

Both public and Catholic school boards say students who are enrolled in remote learning will receive daily instruction with a dedicated classroom teacher for their online class.

“Students want to see their teachers face, they want to see their friends just like in real school,” said O’Neil. “So we are really emphasizing the importance of the face-to-face connections with their peers and with their teacher. So what a family could expect is that face-to-face interaction that they would get would be replicated the best we can in an online environment.”

Board officials say online learning will be much more structured in the fall, compared to the spring at the height of the pandemic.

“We want parents to feel confident that what their children are receiving online, it’s a quality education. It's not just something we are posting and leaving, we are engaging students, we are making sure the curriculum is followed and they are ready for the next steps as well,” Lofaso said.

They say teachers will be reaching out to remote learners next week.

“Parents will be receiving a phone call next week from that child’s teacher and that phone call, it’s a check-in it but it’s also an information gathering session for the teacher,” O’Neil said.

Remote learners within the Catholic board will start classes each day from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. while those in the public board will attend between 9 a.m. and 3:10 p.m.