It was an exciting, sometimes nerve-filled day for parents, teachers and administrators alike as students across Fairfield returned to the town's 16 public schools for the first classes of the 2010-11 year Thursday.

It was a new chapter for Fairfield's schools as a new superintendent, David Title, replaced Ann Clark, who retired at the end of the last school year. Also new are renovations at Stratfield Elementary School, as well as plans to expand Fairfield Woods Middle School.

At Holland Hill Elementary School on Meadowcroft Road, in a scene repeated across town Thursday, parents walked with their children to the door, greeted friends they hadn't seen all summer, hugged goodbye, took photos and video taped the moment to make it last. The 8 a.m. bell rang in the start of another term.

"Happy new year!" Holland Hill Principal Frank Arnone said to students and parents on their way to the school entrance, echoing the sign that greeted kids as they headed to their classrooms.

"It is wonderful. It is what we work for all summer, so the kids can come back and be happy," said Arnone, who was dressed in a bright blue "back-to-school shirt," that has been the tradition since his first day as a teacher.

Three-hundred and forty students from kindergarten to fifth grade are enrolled in Holland Hill, some for the first time, but many were returning for another school year. More than 10,000 students were expected districtwide.

"I think they are excited, but nervous, that seems to be the common theme," Kurt Anderson said of his two sons, first-grader Sam and kindergartner Brody, as the boys tried to push him inside the school. "They don't want to be late," he said with a laugh.

"I love the first day. Everyone is so excited. You see kids running to school, I love it," said Bridget Woodfine, a Holland Hill parent and kindergarten teacher at Osborn Hill School.

Fellow parent Diane Dionis, who was assisting youngsters leaving a bus and helping parents sign in and find their way inside, agreed. "It's a new start," Dionis said. "Everyone here is so helpful, it's like one big family."

Most students at Holland Hill, located in the middle of a neighborhood, walk to school. On Thursday, however, many were accompanied by parents who may have felt a little more anxious than their kids.

Parents weren't the only ones a little unsettled to see students had back to school.

A young boy in a stroller began to cry as his older brother, entering first grade, made his way toward the door, prompting the older boy to return and give him a hug that helped calm the tyke.

It was a quick goodbye for many parents, who then gathered inside the school to chat, eat doughnuts and drink coffee together. Some parents took a little longer to make it inside, stopping to look at their children through the classroom window, waving one last goodbye for the first day.

"It's good to be back," Dionis said with a smile, before rushing off to help a group of kids off a bus.

As Arnone said, "It is such a special day."