By H.M. Cauley
Heards Ferry Elementary in Sandy Springs is the fifth school that Principal Brent McBride has led, and he admits there’s a phenomenon there that he’s never seen anywhere else.
Among its roughly 550 students, Heards Ferry includes 21 sets of twins and one set of triplets.
“This year, there are two sets in our pre-K class, a couple in kindergarten, and the rest are spread all through the school,” McBride sad. “I’ve worked in four schools before this, and having that many twins is an unusual thing.”
McBride estimates there’s an even number of identical and fraternal twins. “But even so,” he added, “it’s still amazing.”
Stephanie Gerstel has done the math to explain how extraordinary the school’s twin population actually is.
“Last year, my boy-girl twins, Ella and Caleb, were one of four sets in the first grade,” she said. “With about 69 children in their grade, that averaged out to about 6.2 percent of those births, compared to a national average of only 3.2 percent.”
Gerstel was pleased that the school staff left it up to her to decide whether or not to separate the twins.
“For us, it was best to separate them, but I was very pleased to know that the administration took my thoughts into consideration,” she said.
Bronwyn Robinson’s identical twin girls, Bryn and Taryn, have never been separated since they started at Heards Ferry’s pre-K program. The 8-year-olds are now in third grade.
“It used to be that twins were almost always split up,” said Robinson. “At Heards Ferry, it’s always been a process where we sat with the teacher at the end of the year and asked the twins. No one’s thought it was a problem; the girls are fine with it. I’m sure eventually they won’t be, but now they enjoy being together.”
Sheri Smith, whose twins Hannah and Julia are in the first grade, says having so many twins in one school is a great thing.
“It is truly a blessing to have identical twins be around so many other sets of identical and fraternal twins,” she said. “It makes them feel, well, like it is just a normal part of life.”
Several parents believe they have an explanation for the twin explosion.
“Could it be that the average age of the parents at the birth of their twins is quite a bit higher in this area, compared to the state average and the national average?” said Gerstel “This area of Sandy Springs is expensive to live in, so most families at Heards Ferry consist of parents who are college-educated, were career-driven and postponed marriage and kids well into their 30s, and even 40s. And statistics show that the older the birth mother, the more likely twins will occur.”
Robinson agrees with the theory, particularly given the older demographics of the Sandy Springs area.
“The older you are, the more likely you are to have multiples,” she said. “And I think there may be a lot of fertility babies.”
Whatever the reason, McBride is sure of one thing.
“I’m telling you,” he said with a laugh. “I wouldn’t drink the water here.”