Delaware Public Media

Low enrollment leads Design Thinking Academy to close its doors

May 13, 2019

The Christiana-area charter school announced it’s closing at the end of the current school year.


The Design Thinking Academy uses a creative problem solving approach to learning. It asks students to analyze a problem, develop a solution and share their work to get feedback on how to improve it.

The high school failed on May 1st to meet the 300 student per year enrollment minimum in its state charter. And the school’s board voted last week to return the charter. In an email, the board said it was not an easy decision, but the best one.

Delaware Charter Schools Network Executive Director Kendall Massett agrees.

“Of the many ways that charter schools are held accountable by the public this is really the most basic way. That if not enough students and families show an interest in the specific mission of a school—and for Design Thinking their mission is pretty specific—then they don’t get the enrollment and the school doesn’t continue,” said Massett.

Massett adds the move comes as no surprise. DTA opened in 2015. It faced enrollment issues from start, severed ties with its founder in 2017 and rebranded in 2018.

Masset says the school’s closing does not reflect on other charter schools.

“This is a responsible decision that this board made, but this is about Design Thinking Academy. This is not about charter schools in Delaware, or charter schools across the country,” she said.

DTA was one of 10 schools nationwide to win a $10 million grant from the XQ Institute in 2016 to help it evolve into a so-called “SuperSchool.”  The board says only a small portion of that funding has since been used for some XQ programs.

This year’s senior class is set to graduate and the state Department of Education says it will work to connect other DTA students with new schools next year.

Design Thinking Academy is the second charter school to shut down this school year.  Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security near New Castle, surrendered its charter early in the 2018-19 school year after experiencing financial issues associated with a failure to meet its enrollment targets.