Among those returning to class was Sarah Caron's son, William, a second-grader at Sandy Hook who was among those evacuated by heavily armed police officers after the Dec. 14 mass shooting at his Newtown school.
"I hugged him a lot longer than normal, until he said, `Mommy, please,"' Caron told the Associated Press on Thursday. "And then he got on the bus, and he was OK."
The past three weeks have been chaotic, and the world has watched the drama unfold, crying with the small, close-knit Newtown community. There have been 26 funerals, many vigils, a presidential visit and the holiday season. Now, with the start of 2013, there is hope and, for many, chance at a new beginning.
When students left for school Thursday, they boarded buses. Instead of heading to Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, they were brought about 7 miles south to the former Chalk Hill School in nearby Monroe. That school, which was closed nearly two years ago, is now the new Sandy Hook Elementary School and was cleaned and painted in anticipation of its reopening.
Monroe Police Lt. Keith White said students arrived at school on time Thursday, and he said most came by bus. They were happy to see their friends, he said.
White said it was a normal school day for Sandy Hook students, and he said school officials told him attendance was good.
"They are going back to business as usual," White said.
To ease worry and to answer questions, school officials met with parents after the bell rang, allowing them to stay on the school campus for the day if they desired. Therapy dogs and counselors were made available to students and staff.
Throughout the school day, there was heavy police presence on and near school property. White said several local departments helped patrol the area.
No problems regarding school safety were reported.
"Today has been pretty mundane," White said about school security.
White, who wouldn't say what security measures are being taken at Sandy Hook, did say that a number of police officers will remain at the school as long necessary. Police and school officials will regularly monitor security and make adjustments as needed, he said.
"We have to do what the parents see fit — what the school board sees fit," White said.