School board vice president plans for upcoming semester after year of online learning

Bridget Kaub rises from her bed at 3:00 a.m. and opens her laptop in the quiet darkness of early morning. She clicks her way through a cluttered inbox, reading emails from stressed colleagues, concerned parents, and struggling teachers. Later, she will make her way down the familiar route to Sowers Middle School, where she will spend the remainder of her day surveying potential campus safety concerns before students return in the fall.

As the Vice President of the Huntington Beach City School District (HBCSD) Board of Trustees, Kaub oversees seven elementary schools and two middle schools in Huntington Beach, California. Her job requires hands-on work — visiting school campuses, sitting down with angry parents, distributing internet hotspots in front of Perry Elementary School.

The Covid-19 pandemic pushed students out of classrooms and into Zoom meetings, but Kaub remains optimistic about the upcoming school year. She currently oversees a new summer school program, and she plans for all HBCSD campuses to return to full in-person instruction by fall 2021. Especially now, her work impacts the daily lives of the students, teachers, and parents who rely on the Huntington Beach education system.

Lauren Harvey: Why did you want to join the HBCSD Board of Trustees?

Bridget Kaub: I’m the type of person who likes to look at where they can make their voice count the most, and that is in our local politics. As much as the Parent Teacher Association is extraordinarily important, I decided that my best voice was spent on our school board, where I could really make policy choices that affected all of our kids and our families. The reason I am involved with education in specific is to make sure that our kids can become good citizens and functioning adults. That is very important to me.

Other school districts in the county have already returned to full in-person instruction. Why are you waiting until fall 2021 to open HBCSD middle schools?

The reason we couldn’t go back full time in the middle schools is because 98% of students wanted to come back. When you measure everything out with pandemic protocols, we simply did not have classroom space. People brought up how the Los Alamitos Unified School District put kids in outdoor tents, but we elected not to. I personally do not feel comfortable from the safety perspective having classrooms of kids completely exposed outdoors. That’s an easy target. The fences around our schools are not that protective. For me, I’d rather err on the side of caution.

People have protested the hybrid learning format of HBCSD schools, demanding a return to full in-person instruction. How do you respond to events like this?

I tend to like to talk to people. I think as an elected official, that’s what I’m there for — to be able to speak to constituents. A few of the parents were very angry about the middle schools. I actually met with a group of them, and we discussed it. I gave them the reasoning why we just simply couldn’t. I made sure to meet with those parents prior to a board meeting so that we could integrate a lot of those questions and have answers. Those parents still aren’t happy, but they’re okay. That’s the best you can do, because you can’t make everyone happy.

Currently, you are working on a new summer school program. What impact do you hope this will have on students after a year of virtual learning?

I believe that kids will learn no matter what place they’re in. I understand that being in the classroom is far more effective than online learning, but what is even more challenging is handling the social and emotional piece. The summer school program is an invitation-only program for kids who have demonstrated learning loss on their state-wide testing, but it is also for kids who really struggled with that social and emotional piece. It’s very important that we get these kids back in order to make sure that they have support from school and their school friends, which they may not be getting at home.

What changes would you like to see on the school board in the future?

We need more younger people who are willing to run for public office, especially school boards. If I’m not the youngest person, I’m the second youngest person, and I’m 55. We need people who are interested in civics and law to do that. And I also think that school boards especially should have at least one board member who has recently attended these schools, because I learn from students, like my daughter Lauren, what is really going on. So I get that from people who have first hand experience. I think that’s important. That is the one thing I would change.