LAKEWOOD RANCH -- A new Sylvan Learning Center has opened in Lakewood Ranch, just as parents and students across Manatee County launch into back-to-school learning mode this week.
Sylvan Learning LLC, based in Baltimore, has more than 750 locations in North America and focuses on personalized tutoring programs for students in K-12 schools as well as some college preparatory classes.
The Lakewood Ranch Sylvan Learning Center, which opened Aug. 10 at 11509 Palmbrush Trail, Suite 106, is a franchise owned by new Sarasota resident Christina Marziale.
She and her parents often traveled to the area and, after working for a Sylvan corporate center for six years, she saw a need for Sylvan's services in Lakewood Ranch.
"I thought, why not bring a program to an area where parents don't have a lot to take advantage of outside of school," Marziale said.
Coincidentally, Mathnasium of Lakewood Ranch opened a couple of months before Sylvan did.
It's a 10-minute drive between the two learning centers with similar missions, though Mathnasium serves only students who need help with math.
Sylvan Learning had a location open in West Bradenton but it closed in 2010.
The franchisee chose to close the location for personal reasons, according to Georgia Paulding, Sylvan's director of franchise development.
Marziale has another six years' experience with providing supplemental education in addition to her six years at Sylvan.
During the No Child Left Behind era, she worked for an education nonprofit and traveled to different schools to provide after-school help.
She also worked in Washington, D.C.'s and Baltimore's public school systems doing intervention work.
"I just love being able to see students achieve and meet goals," Marziale said. "It's amazing to work with families and see results from week to week and how we can actually change path of children's lives."
The Sylvan Learning Lakewood Ranch location has five students enrolled and another four scheduled for assessments this
week. The 2,650-square foot building, formerly occupied by a bank, can hold 28 students at a time.
But Marziale said because families all have different schedules, more than 100 students could be enrolled.
Spanish-speaking and French-speaking tutors are available at the Lakewood Ranch location.
Programs focused on science, technology, engineering and math are available.
The center offers robotics classes for students in second through fifth grades and introductory coding classes for fourth- through eighth-grade students.
Potential college students and parents can pay $990 for ACT and SAT preparatory classes.
For other programs, the costs vary widely based on the number of hours needed.
Tuition starts at $149 for one class but could run into the thousands based on how much help the student needs.
Sylvan will recommend a number of hours based on the student's assessment. The average cost is about $250 per month.
Sylvan Learning Center first assesses students to discover strengths and weaknesses as well as attitudes toward school and learning.
It's often not the subject or material itself causing problems for students, but instead the students' study habits.
"They may think they can't read, or aren't good at reading, so we intervene to build confidence motivation and skills and change their attitude about learning," Marziale said.
Sylvan Learning students in elementary levels make up much of Sylvan's client base.
"If they're behind in third grade, they're 10 times more likely to drop out of high school," she said.
Much of Sylvan's tutoring programs involve the use of an iPad, which teachers will use with the student to work faster through lessons.
Before using iPads, Sylvan students would complete three to five activities in an hour; using iPads, students complete five to seven activities in an hour.
Sylvan Learning Lakewood Ranch will host a grand opening celebration from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 26.
Children will be able to participate in some of Sylvan's programs, including building their own robot.
Janelle O'Dea, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow her on Twitter@jayohday.