Before the break of dawn on Tuesday, public school students were already riding on bright yellow buses on their way to school.
Junior Danielle Yunger drove her mother, Alise Yunger to Bruton High School on her first day of school. She received her learner's permit over the summer, and was still testing out her driving skills.
Alise Yunger made sure they left home early, maybe too early, she said, judging by the almost-empty parking lot at the York County high school.
"Well, at least you'll be on time for your first day," she said, taking the keys back from her daughter.
The teen joined others in York County and Williamsburg-James City County public schools who started a new school year this week. Private schools in the region started school in late August.
More than 11,100 students attend Williamsburg-James City County's 15 schools. In York County's division, more than 12,500 students attend its 18 schools.
At Lafayette High School, juniors Tyler Jump and his friend Conrad Steck were still groggy as they arrived at school. They finished up their Chik-Fil-A breakfast before heading inside.
"I'm still a little tired," Tyler said.
"Me too," Conrad replied.
Monday night, the 16-year-olds stayed up late watching the Ohio State -Virginia Tech football game. Virginia Tech lost, but that didn't keep Tyler from wearing a Hokies T-shirt for the first day of school. Conrad said he would miss the fun of summer and trips to the beach and Busch Gardens, but said he was excited about the first day of class.
"It's fun to see who's in your classes and the schedule," he said.
In the Lafayette High School's packed lobby, Howard Townsend, an assistant principal, greeted students as they walked in, shaking hands with some. Close to 1,180 students will attend the school this year.
The assistant principal remarked how fashion had changed for students.
"A lot of the 1990s styles are coming back," he said. "Jeans are always popular. Back in my day they used to have high-top fades, and I see some of the kids with that now."
He added: "We also have a group of young men who wear bow ties, the type you actually tie not the clip-ons, and they pride themselves on their ability to tie them. Some of the young men who play football also wear long neck ties."
Guidance counselor Quincy Marrow wheeled in a small suitcase of supplies with his youngest daughter, Brittany, who'd spent most of her life at the high school because of her dad's job. On Tuesday, she started her freshman year at the school.
"I'm a little nervous," she said, toying with the new outfit she wore. "I'm excited, though, too, to meet new people and make new friends."
After most of high school students were settled in their homerooms, middle school students in both districts began their day.
For student athletes, their practices started weeks before classes.
At Berkeley Middle School, the football team hit the gridiron Aug. 3, but Tuesday signaled the start of the team's regular season.
Bulldogs players arrived to school in their new red game jerseys, hours before the opening-season kickoff at Cooley Field against rival Hornsby.
"Any time you have two programs as close as they are – a lot of these kids have played on the same youth football teams," first-year Berkeley coach Jim Mingo said. "And apparently, the trash talking has already started over the past couple of weeks about the game. I told our guys that that's not the way we operate. We'll do our talking on the field. We'll let our actions take place on the field."
Mingo retired as an Army colonel at Fort Eustis the day before the Bulldogs started practice in August. His son, Jack, is an eighth-grade offensive and defensive tackle on the team.
This year, elementary school students in Williamsburg, York and James City counties have a new schedule that stretches their day out a few more minutes. School boards for both districts enacted the schedule changes during the last school year.
Shortly before 8:30 a.m., Immanuel Jobent, 10, was waiting for the doors to open at D.J. Montague Elementary School. He said fourth grade was rough, but he's excited to start fifth grade.
"Because today I'll get some new friends and get a better start," he said."I hope I have a good day."
Immanuel's brother Isaiah, 8, waited to start his first day of second grade, but he was eager for something a little different: mozzarella cheese sticks at lunch.
Their mom, Melissa Mendez, said she cut back on her work hours this year, hoping to get the boys more involved in after-school activities.
Immanuel said he'd be interested in trying soccer. Isaiah is excited about karate.
Like many parents around her, Jasmine Brennan snapped a back-to-school photo of her boys, Alex and Ethan, in front of their elementary school.
Alex, 8, seemed prepared for his first day of third grade, with a Batman backpack strapped to his shoulders.For the first time, Alex will be joined at school by his younger brother, Ethan, 5.
"It's kind of weird that he's already going into kindergarten," Brennan said, with Ethan's Spiderman backpack slung from her shoulder.
But he's excited, she said.
Staff writers Michele Canty, Heather Bridges, Austin Bogues and Kellen Holtzman contributed to this report.