podcastED: SUFS president Doug Tuthill interviews education entrepreneur Erika Donalds

Optima Classical Academy, a tuition-free virtual reality public school for Florida students in grades 3-8, uses virtual reality technology to solve the challenges of disengaged, unsocialized scholars.

Editor’s note: You can read more about Optima Classical Academy here.

On this episode, Tuthill interviews former Collier County School Board member Donalds, who is president and CEO of the Optima Foundation, a network of charter schools serving more than 3,000 students. The organization is set to launch Optima Classical Academy this fall, the nation’s first virtual reality charter school, for students in grades 3-8.

Tuthill and Donalds discuss how the pandemic sparked inspiration for the revolutionary new school that will offer a classical liberal arts curriculum and creative virtual “field trips” that will give students the opportunity to travel to outer space and under the sea.

They also provide a glimpse into how education savings accounts could play a critical role in giving greater access to families who want their children to experience the virtual reality academy via unbundling of educational services.

“It is really amazing the number of things that can be done and the creativity of our teachers … They are over-the-moon excited about the possibility of teaching in virtual reality.”


  • Optima’s plan to offer a classical liberal arts curriculum with cutting edge virtual reality technology
  • The mechanics of “field trips” to the moon using virtual reality simulation
  • How virtual reality makes learning more effective, addressing distractions that are part of a traditional school day
  • Managing the business of being the first to create a full-time virtual reality school
  • Why expanding education savings accounts is a crucial next step for providing more educational options to families

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BY reimaginED staff