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New virtual reality school now enrolling for Florida students

Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 7:45 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - This fall, some Florida students will be experiencing a new reality in the classroom.

In fact, they won’t physically be in a classroom at all.

Optima Classical Academy is the first of it’s kind -- a virtual reality charter school. It’s currently enrolling for it’s first class of students grades 3-8 and will begin operating in August.

Students use a VR headset to join a virtual classroom. They have live instruction from their teacher and can interact with their peers in the virtual space.

Erika Donalds, the school’s founder, says it’s designed so that students don’t need to rely on help from their parents while learning remotely.

She said the biggest challenge the academy faces is parental concerns about increased screen time. Still, Donalds believes the virtual reality method is superior to a Zoom classroom.

“Parents have seen Zoom school and the checkerboard of faces,” Donalds said. “Well, in virtual reality, students are in an Oculus headset during live instruction which occurs between 8-12 each day in about 30 to 40 minute intervals with breaks in between, 4 days a week. That live classroom that we’ve built makes students feel like they’re in a classroom.”

More than 10,000 students are currently enrolled in Florida virtual schools. Donalds hopes Optima Classical Academy, which is tuition-free, will become a more appealing alternative for some parents.

Donalds says she’s looking to enroll about 1500 students across Florida and hopes to expand to other states in the future.

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