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Design Thinking Academy quietly shuts doors a week early


School that redefines thinking how students learn rebrands with new name "Design Thinking Academy". Jennifer Corbett, Wilmington

Design Thinking Academy quietly closed its doors Friday. But while the school says it notified parents Friday afternoon, not everyone received a notification.

Monday morning, students waited at the bus stop for rides that never came, or were dropped off at school only to find out there were no classes. 

Originally, students were supposed to attend school for a full day on Monday and half days through Friday. But in a last-minute change, the school is only staying open on Monday and Tuesday for students to drop off assignments or take any finals they missed the previous week. 

In May, the school announced that it would be closing at the end of the school year because of declining enrollment.

According to statements at the time, the school intended to remain open through the end of the year. Should school be canceled, an updated calendar would be sent to parents, the school’s website still read on Monday.

SCHOOL CLOSURE: Design Thinking Academy to close, leaving parents scrambling

A school employee said Monday morning that parents were notified of the closure on Friday. But some parents say not everyone was told.

Jodi Walder, whose daughter just finished ninth grade, said she only found out because a teacher texted her the news Friday after school.

That day, Walder got a text from the school: “Please check your email regarding next week’s agenda.” The text included no other instructions, and she never got an email, she said.

Delaware Design Lab High School is rebranding and has renamed the school "Design Thinking Academy".

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Delaware Design Lab High School is rebranding as "Design Thinking Academy".

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Delaware Design Lab High School is rebranding as "Design Thinking Academy".

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Jilisa Leibert, 15, a freshman, and Christopher Miller, 17, a senior at the Design Thinking Academy, work on a class assignment in the hallway.

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Nick Moore, 17, works with his classmates in his psychology class at the Design Thinking Academy.

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Jerome White, 17, works on a class assignment in his psychology class at the Design Thinking Academy.

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Rahmene Smith, 17, a senior at the Design Thinking Academy, works on a class assignment in his advance marketing class.

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Nancy Marvel, a entrepreneur teacher at the Design Thinking Academy, talks with students taking her advanced marketing class.

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(left to right) Samaira Sirajee, a school data analysis, and Stephanie Silverman, principal of Design Thinking Academy, hold a then- new sign for the school formerly named the Delaware Design Lab High School in September 2018.

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“There are a number of parents I’ve spoken to who have received no communication as of [Sunday],” Walder said.

That happened to Charnelle Little's 10th-grade son. She also received a text from the school, but never got an email. On Monday morning, her son waited at the bus stop for 40 minutes before going back home. 

Little called the school repeatedly, but didn't get a response until around 8 a.m., when she was told her son could come to the school to turn in any leftover assignments. 

At 11 a.m. Monday, she received an official email from the school notifying her of the schedule change. 

Despite the cancellation, students already exceeded the required number of instruction hours for the school year, according to the Delaware Department of Education. 

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The school, at 179 Stanton Christiana Road, fell below the minimum enrollment of 300 students required by its charter as of May 1, the board said last month. The school is no longer financially viable, the board said, and parents had noticed high teacher turnover throughout the school year.

Seniors did graduate on June 1. Since the announcement of the school’s closure, parents have been trying to find a new school for their children for the fall, since the state’s choice deadline had passed.

The News Journal has reached out to the school’s board of directors for comment.

This story will be updated. Check back at Delaware Online for more information as it becomes available.

Natalia Alamdari covers education for The News Journal. Are you a Design Thinking Academy Parent who wants to talk? You can reach her at (302) 324-2312 or nalamdari@delawareonline.com.

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