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& JINGLE BELL CLOCKED Adventure Theatre-MTC recounts classic Christmas tune. A-11 The Gazette DAMASCUS | CLARKSBURG DAILY UPDATES ONLINE Wednesday, November 27, 2013 25 cents Board votes to support M-83 highway plan n C O U N T Y T R U A N C Y BY COURT-STYLE PREVENTION PROGRAM LOOKS BEYOND ATTENDANCE DAN GROSS/THE GAZETTE University of Baltimore School of Law student Andrea Bento (left) and assistant state’s attorney George Simms (right) listen to a student during Truancy Court at A. Mario Loiederman Middle School in Silver Spring. students seats GETTING BACK IN LINDSAY A. POWERS AND ST. JOHN BARNED-SMITH M STAFF WRITERS ontgomery County students who repeatedly miss class are getting guidance from unlikely allies: local prosecutors and judges. In a program that spread to the county from Baltimore in 2010, Montgomery County prosecutors and a local judge meet with students facing a range of attendance issues, from persistent lateness to chronic absence. According to a report by Montgomery County’s Office of Legislative Oversight, “habitual truancy” is defined as missing 18 days in a semester or 36 days of school in a school year. About 984 county public school students were habitually truant in 2009, including about 627 in high school, the report HABITUAL TRUANCY Montgomery County Public Schools’ habitual truancy rate has increased slightly in recent years as Maryland’s rate has decreased. “Habitual truancy” is defined as missing 18 days in a semester or 36 days of school in a school year, according to a report by Montgomery County’s Office of Legislative Oversight. 2.5 2.0 In a tense, 11th-hour decision, the Montgomery County Planning Board voted to support a new highway that would extend Midcounty Highway to Ridge Road in Germantown. After months of deliberation, park tours and hundreds of public comments, the board’s deONLINE cision came down to a 15-minute debate among A detailed listing of the four members and Midcounty Highway Chairwoman Francoise Carrier. Board member options Amy Presley pushed the board to choose an alternative as the meeting ran past 10 p.m., and by a 3-2 vote, the board chose to support Alternative 9A, the master plan route. Alternative 9A is a new four-lane highway between the existing Midcounty Highway and Watkins Mill Road, then an extension north through Wayfarer Road and Germantown parkland, ending at the future intersection of Ridge Road and Snowden Farm Parkway just north of Brink Road. According to the county’s study, Alternative 9A would impact almost 50 acres of parkland, more than any other alternative. “Suitable replacement land would be provided to replace all parkland impacted,” the study states. At the meeting in Silver Spring on Thursday STATE 2.32% SYLVIA CARIGNAN STAFF WRITER n BY Chosen route would destroy more parkland than other options See PLAN, Page A-9 2.25% 1.93% 1.89% 1.80% 0.63% 1.13% 1.08% 2011-12 2012-13 1.5 1.0 0.5 0.0 MONTGOMERY 0.72% 2008-09 0.40% 2009-10 2010-11 SOURCE: MONTGOMERY COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS, MARYLAND STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION says. The same year, more than 8,600 students were chronically absent, missing 20 or more days of school. Montgomery County ranks in the middle of the pack among Maryland counties’ habitual truancy rates. The Truancy Court Program is in five Montgomery County See TRUANCY, Page A-10 TOM FEDOR/THE GAZETTE Residents listen attentively to a staff briefing and recommendations on the midcounty corridor study at the Montgomery County Planning Board meeting Thursday at the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission regional offices in Silver Spring. Council honors powerlifter from Clarksburg n Coaches work with Special Olympians BY VIRGINIA TERHUNE STAFF WRITER MONTGOMERY COUNTY COUNCIL Hall of Fame powerlifter and weightlifter Linda Jo Belsito of Clarksburg was honored by the Montgomery County Council on Nov. 19. Belsito and Jim Downs of Rockville also coach the Montgomery County Special Olympics powerlifting team. From left are Special Olympians Justin Turner, Lori Plaxen and Mathew McMeekin; Belsito; County Councilman Craig Rice, who represents Clarksburg; Downs; and Beth Beaston. NEWS SPREADING GOOD CHEER Damascus High captures county Division I cheerleading crown for second consecutive year. A-3 When Jim Downs of Rockville started the county’s Special Olympics powerlifting team four years ago, he soon lost his assistant coach who had to move out of town. But she happened to know somebody familiar with powerlifting who would be willing to help — a SPORTS A PATH WITH MANY DETOURS Magruder High School grad recovers from serious blood clot, pursues dream of playing professional soccer. B-1 woman nicknamed LJ from Clarksburg. LJ — Linda Jo Belsito — turned out to not only know powerlifting — she was a champion at it. The 56-year-old was inducted into the USA Powerlifting Women’s Hall of Fame in 2006. Powerlifting features three lifts: squat, benchpress and deadlift. The sport is different than Olympic weightlifting, which features the snatch and the clean and jerk. Belsito and Downs have more than doubled the size of the coun- Automotive Business Calendar Classified Entertainment Opinion School News Sports Please RECYCLE ty’s Special Olympics powerlifting team from 7 to 15 members. Two of the members — Lori Plaxen, 24, of Olney and John Edwards, 34, of Derwood — will represent Maryland, along with two athletes from Howard County, at the national Special Olympics USA Games in Princeton, N.J., next June. “She can’t wait! She talks about it every day,” said Lori’s mother, Joyce Plaxen, who credits Belsito See POWERLIFTER, Page A-9 B-13 B-5 A-2 B-9 A-11 A-8 A-6 B-1 Check out our Services Directory ADVERTISING INSIDE B SECTION 1906197

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