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Sylvan to run centers in 5 Minn. schools


Sylvan Learning Systems Inc., reaping the fruits of a program it started in Baltimore, said yesterday that it has reached an agreement with the public school system in St. Paul, Minn., to open tutoring centers in five elementary and middle schools.

The deal, valued at more than $2 million over three years, is a breakthrough for Columbia-based Sylvan because St. Paul will become the first large urban school district outside the company's back yard to commit to its private tutoring program.

Two elementary and two middle schools are to introduce the Sylvan program in the fall. One school remains to be chosen. The program would serve an estimated 750 students, the company said.

Sylvan, which operates a nationwide chain of tutoring and testing centers, hopes to build a lucrative new line of business through contracts with public school systems to provide supplemental educational services.

Douglas Becker, president of Sylvan, said the company expects to announce several similar deals in the coming weeks.

"We expect this to become a very significant part of our business over time," said Mr. Becker, who estimated that school system contracts would likely amount to 10 percent of Sylvan's revenues this year. He said analysts were projecting 1995 revenues of about $85 million.

Sylvan's stock closed down $1 yesterday to $20 a share.

The company launched its in-school tutoring business in Baltimore, where Sylvan began offering tutoring in five city schools in 1993. It has been offering similar services in Washington since 1994.

Sylvan said it now serves more than 4,000 students at 38 schools in Baltimore, Washington and in Pasadena, Texas. The Baltimore program has grown to include 10 schools, and Superintendent Walter G. Amprey has said he would like to expand Sylvan's role to the high schools.

In a departure for Sylvan, its program in St. Paul would use the school district's own teachers to provide instruction, using Sylvan's curriculum and teaching methods. In Baltimore and Washington, Sylvan uses its own employees, though the company often hires public school teachers for part-time work after school.

Mr. Becker said the St. Paul system intends to rotate new teachers through the Sylvan program as a form of teacher training, as well as instruction for students in reading, writing and math.

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