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& WYNONNA’S WINTER WONDERLAND Country star to bring The Big Noise to Bethesda Blues and Jazz. B-7 The Gazette SOUTHERN MONTGOMERY COUNT Y DAILY UPDATES ONLINE Wednesday, December 18, 2013 25 cents Bill will target state’s school assessment test Measure also calls for report on potential penalty n BY LINDSAY A. POWERS STAFF WRITER DAN GROSS/THE GAZETTE Anura Arachchilage (center) and his wife, Yamuna (left), get help from lead navigator Susan Mathews in the Rockville office set up to help people work their way through the process of signing up for medical insurance online to comply with the federal Affordable Care Act. Parents and teachers who don’t want students to take the soon-to-be phased-out Maryland School Assessment tests this year have gained an ally in the state legislature. State Sen. Nancy J. King (D-Dist. 39) of Montgomery Village said Monday she is drafting emergency legislation that would direct the Maryland State Department of Education to apply for a waiver from the federal government so schools can bypass the test this year. The bill will be submitted the first day of the General Assembly’s session, King said. The annual test has been used to assess elementary and middle school students’ performance but Maryland is now transitioning to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers test, a new state assessment that aligns with the Common Core State Standards. The PARCC test — which will be piloted in some Montgomery County schools this year — will not be fully implemented in Maryland until next school year. King said she has heard from See WAIVER, Page A-14 Nonprofit seeks federal investigation of school system n Residents turn to county navigators to help sign up for health insurance to comply with Affordable Care Act BY MARGIE HYSLOP SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTE F riday the 13th was a good day for Paula Kahla of Sandy Spring. Since Maryland’s online health exchange opened Oct. 1, the self-employed real estate agent already had made three trips to Rockville for help finding affordable health insurance, and had made daily attempts to sign on. Until Friday, “all the other times the system was frozen” or couldn’t verify her username and password, Kahla said. Friday Kahla arrived at the county health center in Rockville at 9:50 a.m. and by 1 p.m. she had found and selected a plan. It will cost her $430 per month — far less than the $985 per month that she has been paying for a plan that covers her pre-existing degenerative disk disease, high blood pressure and See GLITCHES, Page A-19 n WAYS TO SIGN UP There are three ways to sign up: 1. Go to and complete the online enrollment process. 2. Call the Maryland Health Connection at 1-855-642-8572 (toll free) or 1-855-642-8573 (TTY) and sign up over the phone. 3. Meet in-person with a navigator to complete enrollment. Visit for a list of sign-up locations and times available. Upcoming sign-up events: n 10 a.m. Saturday: Affordable Care Act Enrollment Event, Montgomery County Health and Human Services, 8818 Georgia Ave. Silver Spring. n 10 a.m. Saturday: Affordable Care Act Enrollment Event, Montgomery County Health and Human Services, 12900 Middlebrook Road, second floor, Germantown. Advocates for ‘ex-gays’ allege discrimination for being excluded BY ST. JOHN BARNED-SMITH STAFF WRITER A Virginia nonprofit group advocating for “ex-gays” has filed a discrimination complaint with the federal departments of Justice and Education against Montgomery County. The group — called Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, or PFOX — contends that Starr made denigrating comments at a public meeting that hurt students. The group also said county public schools stopped a flier distribution program in middle and high schools, denying them access to students in a move reminiscent of the “1950’s Jim Crow South.” Montgomery County officials have declined to discuss the details of the case, saying they don’t comment on pending litigation. However, school district spokesman Dana Tofig said in an email that the county still lets fliers be distributed under the newest policy, even if the superintendent objects to the See INVESTIGATION, Page A-14 Takoma Park apartment residents ‘have been going through hell’ Building owner says tenants’ complaints are being addressed n BY SARAH SCULLY STAFF WRITER For the past six months, residents of the Parkview Towers apartment building on Maple Avenue have been living in something of a construction zone as the building undergoes extensive renovations. Residents claim construction workers have come in early in the morning to do work and have left holes in the walls and ceilings and nails and tools on the floor. Leaks and flooding have caused water damage that looked to be growing mold in some units. Residents also reported feeling disrespected by construction workers and management staff. “We have been going through hell,” said Susan Hartley, president of the building’s tenant association. “It has been rough.” Robert Goldman, president of Montgomery Housing Partnership, which owns the building, said that since hearing tenants’ complaints in early November, the organization has been working to rectify the issues residents face. For the next phase of construction residents will be moved out of their apartments, he said. POISED FOR SUCCESS After several winless seasons, Blake’s ice hockey team is on the rise. ALL-GAZETTE FOOTBALL HONORS Automotive Business Calendar Celebrations Classified Entertainment Opinion School News Sports Please B-2 GREG DOHLER/ THE GAZETTE See RENOVATIONS, Page A-14 SPORTS B-1 Some residents of Parkview Towers are upset about living conditions, such as this hole in the bedroom ceiling of one of the units, during renovations at the apartment complex in Takoma Park. Mike Nemo, project executive with Hamel Builders, said the company has a long track record of successful tenant-inplace renovations in the area. Company policy dictates proper cleanup following work and for workers to enter apartments with management staff. Montgomery Housing Partnership, a local organization that provides affordable housing in the area, bought RECYCLE B-17 A-15 A-2 A-17 B-13 B-7 A-18 A-16 B-1 Check out our Services Directory ADVERTISING INSIDE B SECTION 1906212

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