Sylvan Learning Systems, a Columbia-based private tutoring company, would run federally funded math and reading programs at five Baltimore public schools, under a one-year, $1.4 million contract awaiting action by the city Board of Estimates.
If approved soon by the board, the program could start as early as April, said a school system spokeswoman.
As recently as last month, implementation of a contract with Sylvan this year was in doubt because of an expected $8.2 million cut in federal aid to Baltimore for Chapter 1 compensatory education.
Chapter 1 pays for tutors, field trips and other academic help for 26,000 Baltimore students who live in low-income areas and have academic problems.
But school officials now say that Sylvan has agreed to provide 12 months of service for the same fee and per-pupil cost as a nine-month program, clearing the way financially for the deal to go forward.
The contract, under discussion since last year, would mark the first time a private, for-profit contractor would operate such programs for a public school system, according to Sylvan.
The pilot project would involve a total of 660 students at schools still to be determined, said Maurice B. Howard, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
Sylvan, which operates nearly 500 private tutoring centers around the country, plans to set up a center in each of the participating schools.
Those centers would have certified teachers in a student-teacher ratio of 3-to-1, provide computer-assisted instruction and summer remedial math and reading, and hold frequent parent conferences, said Mr. Howard.
Whenever possible, tutoring services would be provided to youngsters outside of the regular school day to cut down on the amount of time students are pulled away from their regular classes, he said.
Sylvan also is offering the city a "guarantee" in the form of extra tutoring services for students who fail to make sufficient progress in math and reading, Mr. Howard said.