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Twins double the fun at school

They're seeing double in the halls and classrooms of Oak Grove Middle School in Clearwater. The school has 11 sets of twins enrolled this year, according to health education teacher Phyllis Reddick, who keeps track of these things. Five sets are identical.

One half of two other sets of twins also attend Oak Grove, bringing the total number of twin sets represented to 13. The school enrolls 901 pupils.

"In all my past years at this school, I cannot remember so many sets of twins," Ms. Reddick said. "We usually have four sets at the most."

Representatives from other middle schools in the county were astonished that Oak Grove had so many twins this year.

Mary McGill, registrar at Sixteenth Street Middle School in St. Petersburg, said "there might be three or four sets here, but nowhere near 13."

Joy Johnson, school secretary at Seminole Middle School, said only two sets of twins are enrolled there this year.

Both Sixteenth Street and Seminole have more pupils than Oak Grove.

Kay Cassill, president of the Twins Foundation, based in Providence, R.I., said the large number of twin sets at Oak Grove is impressive but not a record.

"There were 13 sets in an elementary school across town last year," Mrs. Cassill said. That school, Gilbert Stuart Elementary, has 940 pupils, according to the school secretary.

Oak Grove's Ms. Reddick, who teaches her health education pupils how twins happen, said Oak Grove's look-alikes pose no particular problem for teachers or pupils.

"Usually they're not in the same classes because their parents request they be split," Ms. Reddick said. The twins "often speak of the advantages of having someone their own age for a brother or a sister."

Twins occur about once in every 89 births, according to the World Book Encyclopedia. Identical twins occur about four times in every 1,000 births. Fraternal twins, which can be of the same or opposite sex, have different genetic makeups. Identical twins, which always are the same sex, have identical genetic makeups and usually are more difficult to tell apart than fraternal twins.

Eleven-year-olds Corey and Chris Holder are identical twins in the sixth grade at Oak Grove.

Born on St. Patrick's Day, they are "a tiny tad Irish and a tiny tad Indian," Chris said.

Twice when they were in the first grade, the Holder twins swapped classes for the day fooling everyone "except the lunch lady," Chris said.

The twins are good friends and usually get along great "except if he has a girlfriend, and I talk to her and pretend I'm him," Corey said.

The Holders excel at tennis and are doubles partners in the school's tennis tournaments, said Clara Borum, head of Oak Grove's physical education department. "One of them is better than the other, but I can't remember which," she said.

Sixth-graders Dolores and Lolita Liwag also are identical twins. "Sometimes we argue, but not much," Dolores said. "We're pretty alike. We both like New Kids on the Block."

Dolores and Lolita were dressed alike one day last week clear down to the bows in their pulled-back, dark hair. When they're dressed that way, Oak Grove Principal Peg Lopez said she can't tell the two apart.

But classmate Sara Fritts has no problem. "It's in their faces," 11-year-old Sara said. "They're just kind of different."

Nobody has trouble telling the Williams twins apart.

Fourteen-year-old Craig Williams is 5 feet 8 and weighs 125 pounds. His twin brother Steve is 6 feet 1 and weighs 210.

They're different in other ways, too. "I'm outgoing, he's laid-back," Craig said. "He likes the Lakers. I like the Celtics. That's how different we are," Steve added.

The two have different friends and, at this point in their lives, try as much as possible to go their separate ways.

"We get into a lot of fights," Steve said. "The physical fights I win. He wins the yelling fights."

Twins Foundation president Mrs. Cassill, an identical twin herself, said the animosity the Williams twins are experiencing is not uncommon especially among adolescent boys.

"Teen-age boys have the hardest times being twins," Mrs. Cassill said. "The competition between them is usually keen. If it's not handled in an intelligent fashion, it can last into adulthood."

She had these "twin" recommendations for Oak Grove's teachers and staff members:

"Look at them as individuals," Mrs. Cassill said. "Learn about the differences in their personalities and try not to make comparisons. Encourage the students not to make comparisons, either."

The bonds between twins are very strong, she said.

"Teachers want to be fair, but when you apply single standards to twins, they usually don't work."

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