APEX, N.C. (WTVD) -- Some Wake County students return to the classroom Thursday for the first time in over year, and they must do it as a tropical storm dumps rain throughout the region.
Alex Garcia has spent the better part of the last 16 months in his room at home in Apex. On Thursday, that changes.
Thirty-five year-round schools in Wake County will open their doors Thursday to the largest numbers of students attending school in person since March 2020.
WATCH: Parkside Elementary principal talks about returning to class during a tropical storm
Alex spent the entirety of the fourth grade at Oak Grove Elementary virtually.
Despite the fact that he's not eligible for a vaccine yet, his mother Nina and their family are confident in sending him back.
The Garcia's went for a "Meet the Teacher" Day at school Wednesday.
"They were ready for all the kids with safety protocols," Nina said. "It was a really welcoming environment so I'm really looking forward to him going back -- I think it's time."
Once all schools are in session by late August, 94% of students will be attending in person.
Wearing a mask indoors is still mandatory, including school buses, but they're not required during recess. Students will also be eating in the cafeteria this year versus in their classrooms like last year.
"We thought it was much more beneficial to have him be in school and wear the mask," Nina said. "He needed the social interaction, he needed the teachers. I do wonder how he is going to transition to a regular 9:15 to 3:45 all day in school? I think that's a struggle with everyone's family."
Nina also has a high schooler who just received his second COVID-19 vaccine.
According to Wake County Schools, about 10,000 of the district's 160,000 students are registered for the Virtual Academy for 2021-22. That compares to a high of 85,500 during the 2020-21 school year