NEWTOWN, Conn.—The buses started arriving at Hawley School on Church Hill Road shortly before 10 a.m. on Tuesday, carrying children who waved to roughly two dozen camera crews camped across the street.
A police officer stationed at the entrance of the elementary school greeted the youngsters with a big smile, asking, "Are you ready for school today?" and "Where have you guys been?"
There were similar scenes at other Newtown public schools reopening for the first time since Friday, when 20 children and six adults were killed when a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in one of the deadliest massacres in U.S. history. The school, still an active crime scene, remains closed.
Chalk Hill School, a vacant facility in nearby Monroe, is being prepped to welcome Sandy Hook Elementary students—but school officials have yet to decide when that will be.
The first day back didn't go smoothly for everyone. One Newtown school, Head O'Meadow Elementary, remained closed because of an unspecified threat. Police called it a "precautionary measure."
At Hawley, less than two miles up the road from Sandy Hook, a handful of parents walked their children to school from nearby homes.
But the Sandy Hook tragedy continued to unfold nearby at Saint Rose of Lima Catholic Church, where funeral services for 6-year-old victims James Mattioli and Jessica Rekos were under way.
While most Hawley parents did not want to talk to the media after dropping off their kids, a few agreed to talk to reporters about the experience.
"They're in a safe place," said a mother who did not want to be named after dropping off her 4th-grade son at Hawley. "He's very happy to be back at school."
Peter Muckell, a 52-year-old father of two, dropped off 8-year-old Shannon at Hawley and said her teacher greeted them at the door.
"Just take care of these guys," Muckell said he told the teacher.
Muckell's 13-year-old daughter, he added, was looking forward to getting back to normal.
"Back to the routine," Muckell said.
Bridget, a mother of two girls aged 14 and 11 who would not give her last name, said she felt they would be safe in class. But she worried that the increased police presence might be distressing to them.
"The teachers have been great, emailing us throughout the weekend," Bridget said. "But having the kids walking around in between classes and looking out the windows at all the police—that's the hard part."
Schools openings in Newtown were delayed two hours to allow parents extra time to prepare the roughly 4,700 students for their return.
"Homework Club will not meet," a note on the Hawley School website read. "Odyssey of the Mind Club will meet."
"This is a day to start healing," Newtown High School Principal Charles Dumais wrote in an email to parents.
The sign outside the school, like dozens of others in the town, has become a makeshift memorial.
Shortly after 11 a.m., as the last bus at Hawley was approaching the school, two state police cars—carrying what appeared to be family members of one of the Sandy Hook victims—sped by with their sirens blaring.