Return to Gunston Messages

Messages from the Principal, Kristen Rucinksi, and Assistant Principal, Ebony Opie

September Principal Message

Welcome Back to Learning 

We are so excited to begin our new school year on Tuesday, September 8, 2020.  We can’t wait to visit the students in their virtual classrooms.  We would like to extend a special welcome to all of the new families joining Gunston this year and welcome back all of our returning families!  I am honored to be your principal. Our goal is to work together to provide our eagles with a rich learning environment.  We believe that every eagle will continue to soar.   In a collaborative effort, we want children to thrive in all ways possible.  It has been amazing to see students at open house sessions this week, the beginning of the year excitement is in the air! 

Student success is attributed to the partnership and the relationships we build within our community and this is most important now more than ever. It truly does take a village and at Gunston we value teamwork and collaboration! Education is a joint venture and we greatly appreciate the support you provide for your children to help them meet their learning goals.  Without the support of parent contributions through our extraordinary PTA, we would not have been able to provide our learning toolkits.

Although this year looks different than any other year, we are dedicated to providing your child(ren) a memorable, interactive, engaging distance learning experience. Our staff has been engaging in learning and planning engaging experiences in order to build connections with their students and to help foster new relationships with their peers.   We will be focusing  on all of the positives that we can take from this experience and as the role models in our little eagles’ lives it is important that we display a positive attitude towards distance learning each and every day. I encourage you to do the same at home and when you face challenges, please reach out to your teachers, they are there to support your family. 

We look forward to a fantastic school year!


Ms. Rucinski and Mrs. Opie


“Believe in yourself and all that you are.  Know that there is something inside you greater than any obstacle.” -Christian Larson

Principal Message September 10, 2020

New School Year is Off to a Great Start!

We were so excited to see all of our returning eagles and newest eagles in their virtual classrooms this week!  Each day starts with a Morning Meeting that focuses on building relationships as well as the social and emotional well-being of students. These are similar to the Morning Meetings we conduct every day when in the building in person. 

We have been intentional in our decision-making with content areas, breaks, specials, and independent work time. Students will receive virtual instruction five days per week. The week included 4 days of live, face-to-face (synchronous) online instruction with teachers Tuesday through Friday. Mondays will be used for independent learning (asynchronous) and/or individualized instruction, plus the aforementioned Morning Meeting. Additional intervention will be provided to select students on Monday mornings. We will also create additional opportunities for students to engage in enrichment opportunities on Mondays, stay tuned for those details in upcoming weeks.  Specific class and student schedules were shared by classroom teachers. Individual teachers will provide more detailed information about their Monday schedule. 

Please continue to reach out to your teachers and share any questions you may have about class time or work.  We appreciate your collaboration with us!


Ms. Rucinski & Mrs. Opie

Principal Message October 1, 2020

Dear Families,

We can’t believe it is the first day of October already!  Thank you for taking the time to attend our virtual "Back to School Night” last week.  We had a great turnout! If you were unable to attend, please contact your child's teacher to locate the recorded version.  It has been made available for you.  Our Virtual Parent Coffees continued last night with a focus on supporting your child with reading at home.  Stay tuned for information about our next parent coffee later this month presented by our math specialist.

Over the last month, we've seen students become accustomed to their new school routines and procedures.  We have enjoyed meeting with each grade level to review the Students Rights and Responsibilities.  Please make sure you review with your child how they can continue to be safe, respectful, and responsible eagles in our virtual classrooms.  Our specialists are enjoying connecting with students during our clubs that started this week.  While this isn't the ideal environment for school, we see that students, parents and teachers are making the very best of the time they have together.

Communication continues to be at the heart of collaboration between school and home.  Please continue to share your successes and challenges with our teachers, so that they can best support all of our eagles.  Interims will be sent home at the end of next week.  This is a great opportunity to reinforce goal-setting with your child and to reflect on their strengths and an area they would like to improve. 

We hope you and your family are finding time to disconnect and enjoy the beautiful fall weather.

Virtual hugs,

Ms. Rucinski and Mrs. Opie

Principal Message October 26, 2020

Dear Families, 

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is planning to bring additional student groups back to school for in-person instruction in the near future. We will follow strict safety and health protocols to minimize health risks for students and staff. To learn more, visit here.

The following groups of students will be returning to in-person instruction (start dates below are tentative and subject to change):    

Group 5:

November 16 – tentative date

Early Head Start (infants and toddlers) 

PreK (three and four year olds)


Intensive Support Needs(students instructed w/ modified curriculum for at least 50% of their core courses and instructed in special education settings 50% or more of their instructional day),

Specialized Center-based Programs – Special Education (Vision Program @ Robinson)

Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing (DHH) Programs at Canterbury Woods ES, Frost MS and Woodson HS - students with 50% or more of core content areas in Special Education settings 


Group 6:

November 30 - tentative date

Grades 1-2

Specialized Career Centers – Special Education (Davis and Pulley Centers w/ target learner profile)


Group 7:

January 4 – tentative date

Grades 3-6

Secondary Public Day Programs — Special Education (Burke MS, Cedar Lane, Quander Road) Davis and Pulley Centers (students w/ target learner profile)


Group 8:

January 26– tentative date

Grades 7-12 

Davis and Pulley Career Centers


The following special education groups will receive in-person instruction four (4) days per week (Tues - Fri)

- Intensive Support Needs - Group 5

- Center Based Programs (Vision and Hearing) - Group 6


We will be using concurrent instruction for students who receive in-person instruction. This means that students who elect in-person instruction will receive two days of teacher-led instruction in the school building and two days of teacher-led instruction at home. Students who elect all-virtual learning will continue to receive four days of teacher-led instruction at home.

In either format, Mondays will be a full day of independent learning for students to give our teachers more time to prepare and plan the week’s lessons. This will begin on Monday, November 9, 2020 for Group 5 and on November 16, 2020 for Group 6.  November 12 and 13 will be teacher workdays and independent learning days for Group 5 students to give our teachers time to prepare and plan for in-person instruction.  November 20, 23, and 24 will be teacher workdays and independent learning days for Group 6 students.

Some schools are already piloting concurrent instruction. The Superintendent will report his findings on the pilot program at the November 12 School Board work session.  

Here is a video that demonstrates how a concurrent classroom will look.

We will honor the choice you made in the FCPS July survey to determine the setting for instruction. If you chose in-person instruction, we will assume your student(s) will return to in-person instruction in accordance with the schedule above. If you chose all-virtual instruction we will assume you will continue in that format.


Families were surveyed in July 2020 and non-responses defaulted to in-person instruction. We will use July responses in planning unless we have an updated communication from you by the due date of Friday, October 30, 2020.

If your preferences have changed, or you wish to provide additional information in confirming your preferences, please call our office at 703-541-3600 or complete the applicable Google form below and we will try to accommodate your request based on the availability of staff and space. 


Si habla español, llame a la oficina al para informarnos si desea que su hijo regrese a la escuela en persona o continúe con la instrucción virtual, y para ayudarlo a completar el formulario de Google correspondiente a continuación.

Please submit a separate form response for each child enrolled at Gunston:

Link to Gunston Preference Google Form

Updated preferences are due October 30th.  Families will not be able to update preferences after this time.  We will strive to minimize the impact of this transition; however, some students may experience a change in schedule or class assignment as we work to accommodate everyone’s preferences.



We will host a Parent Q&A session on Thursday, October 29 at 6:30 PM about Return to School. Please submit questions by TUESDAY at 8 PM to guide this presentation using this link:  Gunston Question Form

Link to Thursday’s meeting:  Gunston Return to School Session Link


Thank you for your support and cooperation as we continue on this journey to deliver the best instruction for all FCPS students. 


Kristen Rucinski

Kristen Rucinski

Principal, Gunston Elementary

Recording from Principal Q&A about Return to School October 29, 2020

Return to School Choice due Today

Today (October 30) is the deadline to make a change in your decision regarding our child's learning setting for the 2020-2021 school year. We will honor all selections from July. However, if your circumstances have changed please complete the form by TODAY using this link Gunston Preference Google Form. If you have any questions you can contact Ms. Rucinski @email or Mrs. Opie @email  . If you are keeping your selection from the summer, you do not need to complete the form. Thank you.

Recording from 10/29 Parent Q & A session :


Principal Message January 2021

Principal Message January 2021

Principals' Message

Dear Families,

Another new year begins as we welcome 2021. We hope everyone has had a chance to relax and enjoy some quality time with family and friends over the winter break. The start of school, after a significant break, always provides a good opportunity to reestablish a focus on learning. The new year has brought a renewed sense of energy and dedication. The staff and students have come back from their break excited and rejuvenated. We continue to be dedicated to meeting the needs of each and every student.  We wanted to remind you that teachers will be emailing their interims home to you today.  Please make sure to schedule a conference with them if you have any questions or concerns.  We appreciate all that you do every day to support their learning and our community.

On January 5, the Fairfax County School Board held a work session to discuss plans to bring students and staff back to school for in-person instruction. During this session, members reviewed the COVID-19 metrics for our area and listened to concerns from many parents and staff. It was decided that FCPS will pause on return to school plans for students and staff at this time.  All students will participate in virtual learning until further notice.  The school board will meet again on Tuesday, February 2, to review plans for returning to in-person instruction. We will continue to use the current bell schedule (8:30-3:15) at this time. Thank you for your continued support and patience as we navigate this school year together. As always, updates will be provided as we receive them.


Ms. Rucinski and Mrs. Opie

Principals' Message February 4, 2021

Principals' Message February 2021

Dear Families,

We can’t believe that it is February and third quarter has begun!  We hope everyone was able to enjoy the snow this week.  We are excited to plan for returning students to the building beginning this month.  Please make sure you are reviewing our newsletters as we will continue to provide important information as this process unfolds.  Please remember that our new bell schedule of 9:00 am - 3:30 pm will begin on February 16, 2021.  Classroom teachers will share how this impacts their individual class schedule.  We had to make adjustments to instructional blocks, however, we did maintain a school-wide lunch/recess time from 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm to assist with supporting your family needs.  We will continue to send updated information specific to your grade level as it gets closer to their return date.

We are collaborating with our PTA to plan for upcoming virtual school events.  Stay tuned this month for information about our Read Across America Spirit Week activities.  Please remember to thank our counselors this week as we celebrate National School Counselor Week.  Mrs. Ephraim and Ms. Amin are always available to support your children and families.  You may reach them at  @email and @email to share your appreciation or reach out for any assistance.  We continue to appreciate all of your flexibility and support and want to remind you that we are here to support you.  Please reach out to us if you have any questions.


Ms. Rucinski and Mrs. Opie

Community Meeting Return to School March 2 Recording

Community Meeting Return to School

March 2


Principals' Message March 4, 2021

Principals' Message March 4, 2021

Dear Gunston Family,

We have been enjoying reading to our eagles at night to celebrate Read Across America week.  The daily flipgrids have been awesome to watch.  Please consider joining us tonight for our mystery readers and more great stories.  Our students have been working hard during virtual learning and we are impressed with their discussions and projects.  Third quarter interim reports should be emailed today.  Please take this time to reflect with your children about their strengths and areas for growth.  It is important that students are participating in class and completing their assignments.  As always, if you have any concerns please reach out to the teachers so you can continue to collaborate together.

We are so excited that we were able to welcome back our kindergarten students and are prepared to bring back our first and second grade students next week.    If you were not able to attend the community meeting, please watch the video to learn about how in-person school will be different.  Please remember that the classes were changed based on preference information from July and October.  We have rearranged classes and will not be able to honor all additional changes at this time.  We have recently resent our letters stating the days your students will come to school if in-person was selected previously.  Please note that if we are able to accommodate a change, it takes time and will not be immediate. 

We look forward to our upcoming events that are scheduled for the rest of the year, such as virtual STEM Night and Heritage Nights.  Stay tuned for more information!

Thank you for all you continue to do to support your children and teachers.  We are in this together and love our Gunston family!


Ms. Rucinski and Mrs. Opie

Principals' Message April 8, 2021

Gunston Families,

We hope everyone had a restful and enjoyable spring break!  We can’t believe that is the fourth quarter already.  Third quarter progress reports will be sent home beginning next week.  We encourage you to continue to review celebrations with your child and help them identify an area for growth.  We are continuing to work on goal-setting with our eagles as well.  As the CDC guidance is changing, we are working to determine what activities we will be able to include the remainder of the year.  Please keep your eye out for information regarding student pictures and yearbooks.  We will also provide updates on kindergarten orientation and sixth grade promotion ceremony as we receive more guidance. 

Earlier this week, Dr. Braband shared more information regarding in-person learning, including the updated CDC guidance which will allow schools the opportunity to transition from 6 feet to 3 feet social distancing at some times, thereby possibly providing more days of in-person instruction. Please understand that we are no longer accepting changes to in-person attendance as we focus on our next phase.

You can read Dr. Braband’s full message by clicking on this link.

We are committed to bringing back as many of our in-person students to four days of instruction as our capacity restraints allow, beginning with students identified by our school staff through the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) process. FCPS has trained our FCPS teachers and leaders in a process to be able to identify and provide students additional supports through the MTSS process. We have used this process to support students for many years to provide interventions and extensions for students.  We have begun notifying these families already and will continue to do so this week.

Please be aware that there are a variety of factors to be considered when expanding to 4 day return. Although we would like to implement this immediately, our current classroom capacities may prevent us from expanding the option to all students who would like to return. We need time to work out the details regarding space and staffing, such as the continued requirement for students to eat meals (breakfast, snack and lunch) at 6 feet apart. We must continue to adhere to all of the CDC regulations and FCPS guidelines for furniture, transportation changes, classroom setup and scheduling changes.

Please be patient as we work through the updated guidance to see if we are able to shift additional In-Person students to four day instruction.  In the near future, we may not be able to honor four-days for all grade levels or in every classroom within a grade level due to the factors shared above.  Should our capacity guidance allow your child to return to school for four days each week, our school staff will reach out to you by the end of next week with a goal to have as many students as possible beginning on April 20th.  Please know that we are proactively working to accommodate as many students as possible and there are no actions you need to take at this time in order for your child to be considered for four days of in-person instruction.

Please make sure that you are reviewing the daily health screener for each child prior to sending them to school.  There are more symptoms  to be aware of than a typical school year that would require them to stay home.   We are so excited to expand our in-person opportunities for our eagles and following these protocols are essential in order for us to continue to expand the opportunities.

We look forward to continuing to collaborate with you and appreciate your patience and flexibility!

Warm Regards,

Ms. Rucinski and Mrs. Opie

SOL 2021 Parent Night Information April 14 Recording

Principals' Message May 6, 2021

Principals' Message

Happy May!

We are so excited to celebrate our AMAZING STAFF this week!  We appreciate their dedication and commitment to all of our eagles and the countless hours they have devoted to support our community this year.   Thank you to everyone for all you are doing to help celebrate our staff.  Teachers and parents continue to work collaboratively to promote learning virtually and in-person.  Everyone is doing an amazing job. The one constant is that students are continuing to work hard and meet their goals.  We are so excited to see more students in the building four days a week.  We continue to follow all of our mitigation strategies and safety protocols in school and on the bus.  We look forward to the return to 5 Days In Person learning next school year.  As more information is shared about details for next year we will continue to hold town halls and keep you in the loop.  If you have neighbors who need to enroll their children, please encourage them to reach out so we can support them and get them signed up for communication.  With the increase of in person, four day a week students, we are experiencing additional traffic at drop off and pick up. Please be patient and follow the directions of staff in the parking lots.

May brings anticipation of the last days of school, summer vacation, and planning for a new school year.  After a most unprecedented 2020-21 school year, we also look forward to “a return to normal”. That said, we have much to be proud of as a school community for navigating the unknown.  We have met the challenge together with grace, unity, and a continued focus on putting children and learning first.  We are preparing for the final weeks of this school year.  Please stay tuned for any additional information and updates this month regarding end of the year activities.  Our third through sixth graders will begin taking their SOLs next week and our K-2 students have already begun some of their end of the year assessments.  If you have any questions please reach out to your teachers or the school directly.  We want to ensure that the students are not experiencing any anxiety due to assessments so please know that our counselors are here to support you as needed. 


Ms. Rucinski & Mrs. Opie


“Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that anything is possible!”

FCPS Health and Safety Guidance Document 2021

We've held a number of informative and helpful Community Coffees that we recorded if you missed. Videos to be removed Jun 18.

Wellness Team - Self Care

Community equity discussion with expert, Tara Hewan

October 29 Q & A Session about Return to School  note: situations may be different due to changes in current coronavirus circumstances and/or also school board member/superintendent policies.

Math Night Parent Coffee with Lisa Schroeder

Books and Reading with Elizabeth Robinson and Diana McIntyre

Read Across America Story Recordings

2021 SOL Parent Information Recording

Tips For Online Learning Success

SIS Parent Vue/Parent View Activation Request