At Carmen Arace Middle School, where a Bloomfield police car was parked on the sidewalk at the front entrance, Principal Trevor Ellis said the goal of the staff was to return to normalcy as quickly as possible. He said that there were no plans to have teachers bring up the subject unless students did so.

"We had a lot of media coverage and they've been educated on what happened; the kids are just as shocked as we are," Ellis said.

Ellis said he had been approached by one student about the idea of wearing green and white in support of the Sandy Hook students, but he denied the request.

"We want to move forward and stick to our routines," he said.

Art teacher Marc DeNovellis was preparing for his first class of the day.

"I'll be asking if there's anything they'd like to express," DeNovellis said. "I'm trying to figure out what's best for them and myself."

Social studies teacher Marcus Jennings engaged a class in a discussion about the shootings and Newtown, including whether the president should have visited on Sunday night.

One student said "no — your child is dead and he can't do anything to bring them back to life."

But another student countered that "his presence and speech let the people know it was something that affected the whole country."

At the Global Experience Magnet School, the staff held a brief assembly to reassure students that the shooting was an isolated incident. But they were also told to take their safety drills seriously and reminded of the importance of being kind to others.

Bulah Hernandez, who lives in the Laurel Ridge development in Middletown, was waiting with her three elementary school children Monday morning. The children were huddled under her oversized golf umbrella.

"This is very sad. My heart is broken," Hernandez said. "It is different today. I am scared for them. But I am very happy and feel lucky I am sending them to school."

At another nearby bus stop, Middletown's Willow Glen residents Carla Neri and Marci Hahn had just put their elementary school children on the bus and were talking with each other as a drizzly rain fell.

"I just want to be a hermit. It is just horrific," Neri said, calling it a difficult weekend for herself and her child. "I don't know how to explain it or understand it myself. How am I going to talk or explain it to them? I just said things like be aware of your surroundings and listen to your teacher."

Neri said she received an email from the Middletown superintendent that police will be at schools all day and stepping up their presence. Hahn, the mother of a kindergartner and first-grader, said the weekend was spent with no television or radio.

"My hope is they don't hear any more and remain innocent," she said. "And if they do hear something today, I will just tell them as easily as I can when they gethome."

"It's just so sad," Neri said. "I can't imagine what the parents are going through. It was a weekend of lots of hugs at my house."

In West Hartford, Superintendent Karen List said "the sense of normalcy was wonderful" on Monday.

"I was out in front of an elementary school with the principal and a police officer and I watched children skipping and laughing and singing and talking about the 12 Days of Christmas," List said. "The children, especially the young children, appeared to be fine."

But List said she did observe parents wiping their own tears as they dropped off their children. And, she said, there were students in all age groups — from elementary through high school — who sought counseling.

List said that teachers were prepared to talk about the tragedy at Sandy Hook, but that there hadn't been much discussion. On the elementary level, she said, teachers only talked about it if students brought it up. She heard from a high school teacher that with the end of the semester almost here, students were focused on academic work, rather than on what had happened in Newtown.

"The most important thing parents can do," List said, "is to stop the Facebook, stop the television news. ... There are some people who just can't think about anything else and they need to take a break from it."

Like many districts, she said that West Hartford will have an increased police presence all week. "A number of parents thanked police officers for being there," she said. "I think it helps people feel better."

In Manchester, police have also heightened their presence at all schools, and the superintendent is considering an emergency drill to test the current response system.

"We have a very good rapport with the board of education — we talk on a daily basis," Police Chief Marc Montminy said Monday. "We don't want to go into specific details, but I will say there is an increased presence at all our schools, public and private."

Courant staff writers Steve Goode, Christopher Hoffman, Jesse Leavenworth and Shawn Beals contributed to this story.