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4 Western Pa. Sylvan Learning centers close unexpectedly

Tony LaRussa
| Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, 9:10 p.m.

The owner of the four Sylvan Learning centers in Western Pennsylvania abruptly closed his franchises on Thursday without notifying parents, employees or corporate officials, according to a company spokesman.

To accommodate students, the company reopened the Sylvan Learning center in Butler, according to Nick Kouwenhoven, a spokesman for the company based in Baltimore.

Satellite centers in Highland Park, Evans City, Monessen and Cranberry were reopened by corporate officials.

The shuttered centers are in Monroeville, Robinson and Greensburg.

“This is disappointing and sad for us and for the students,” Kouwenhoven said. “The owner of these franchises and the satellite centers did not provide a reason for why he ceased operations and he did not follow proper procedure, which requires he notify the people affected about the options available to them.”

Kouwenhoven did not know how many students were affected. Sylvan provides tutoring services for students in grades K-12.

Students have the option of attending tutoring sessions at one of the remaining centers or they can participate in an online program monitored by a teacher.

If none of those options is suitable, the company's policy for centers that close is to refund any money paid for services that are not provided, Kouwenhoven said.

But getting a refund could prove difficult.

The former franchise owner, Randy Rohde of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, also locked the doors Thursday on six Sylvan franchises he operated in the Cleveland area. Company officials reopened three of the centers to accommodate students.

A telephone number Rohde provided to the corporate office was disconnected and he did not respond to e-mails seeking comment.

Kouwenhoven said Sylvan is not responsible for furnishing refunds.

“We didn't collect the money, it was collected by the franchisee and he is the person customers should look to for a refund,” Kouwenhoven said.

Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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