Irvine Unified School District receives $2 million for arts, music, science

Erin Zoumaras, director of arts education at IUSD claps as Jeff Davis presents a check.
Erin Zoumaras, left, director of arts education at IUSD claps as Jeff Davis, Irvine Co. senior vice president, center, presents IUSD Board of Education President Cyril Yu with a $2-milllion check for the IUSD Excellence in Education Enrichment Fund.
(Courtesy of the Irvine Unified School District)

A $2-million gift received Tuesday from the Irvine Co. and the Donald Bren Foundation, part of a $50-million, 20-year commitment, will continue to bolster the arts, music and science programs at elementary schools within the Irvine Unified School District, officials said.

“Educational opportunity and excellence have always been at the heart of our planning efforts in Irvine,” said Jeff Davis, Irvine Co. senior vice president, in a news release announcing the gift. “The funding commitment made through the Excellence in Education Enrichment program has deepened our decades-long partnership with [ IUSD], students and families to support enrichment programs in science, art and music.”

The gift goes toward financing two one-hour science lessons a week, two 40-minute music lessons weekly and six, one-hour art classes annually for students in grades 4 through 6. The district estimates the funds have so far helped nearly 200,000 elementary students.


District officials noted in the news release that students have had their works exhibited at regional art events and venues like the Laguna Beach Festival of the Arts and the Orange County Imagination Celebration in addition to more than 300 projects submitted this year to the Orange County Science and Engineering Fair.

A large, symbolic presentation check was handed over to district officials at the 40th annual Donald Bren Honors Concert at Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, in which more than 600 students participated.

IUSD Board of Education President Cyril Yu said in an interview the funding helps bridge a gap. He noted that while the district has robust programs for students in its middle and high schools, the same isn’t true at the elementary school level, where budget cuts have impacted the ability to educate in those fields not only in Irvine, but in other districts as well.

“We have other partners that help in that funding as well, but [the Irvine Co. and Bren Foundation gift] is a significant amount of money that helps fill that definite need. Without that, we wouldn’t be able to provide the programming for students,” Yu said.

“Early introduction to scientific concepts, experiments and doing that kind of work engages students in activities that may lead to their interest in [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] fields, which has tremendous importance to the fields they may go into in the future,” Yu continued. “There’s a lack of diversity in those fields, so how do we get girls and other minorities to be interested outside of providing them opportunities at a young age so that they are excited about it? And then, on the arts and music side, they’re having concepts being taught to them that can benefit them whether they choose to pursue careers in those fields or not.

“These [arts, music and science] skills are all foundational skills that are just as important as the other things they’re learning in classes.”