Fuming parents slam school for closing after ‘false widow’ spider outbreak

A Northamptonshire school has been forced to close after a suspected false widow spider outbreak, leaving some parents fuming.

The Duston School closed both its primary and secondary phases yesterday evening, giving the parents of 1,500 kids just hours to cobble together childcare plans.

The infestation, if confirmed, would be the second to shut a Northamptonshire school in as many weeks, after Malcolm Arnold Academy had to shut temporarily earlier this month.

The decision has been slammed by angry parents, with some branding the decision to close the school 'scaremongering' and 'bonkers.'

In a letter sent to all parents, Duston principal Sam Strickland confirmed that both the primary and secondary phases of the school would be forced to close, as reported by Northants Live.

He said that all staff and students will not be able to attend the school while the arachnids are removed.

But pupils will not be getting a day off with teachers set to provide online work to be completed.

The letter, sent to parents on Tuesday (September 28), said: "Please be advised that due to a suspected outbreak of False Black Widow Spiders we are regrettably having to close both phases of the school to all pupils and staff tomorrow (Wednesday) to allow the situation to be assessed and for the school to be cleaned.

"A decision regarding the re-opening of the school will be made following an update tomorrow and this will be communicated to you accordingly.

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"I cannot apologise enough for the inconvenience that this may cause you, especially in terms of organising child care arrangements. However, the health and safety of the school community must come first and foremost.

"Work will be set for all of our pupils to complete at home via Microsoft Teams.

"I will update you as soon as I have any further news."

A false widow spider is often confused with the more dangerous black widow, and they do bite, but very rarely attack humans.

They are often sighted at this time of year, and in what the Wildlife Trust describes as "extremely rare" cases of humans being bitten by them, it is compared to a wasp's sting.

Despite Mr Strickland's genuine concern for the students' safety, some parents were unhappy with the decision.

On Facebook, Lorri-Ann Gillies wrote: 'Back to back meetings all day and a pitch at 11am. I mean it’s not as if I wasn’t juggling enough anyway.'

While Kirsty Huizinga said it was a 'nightmare'.

Alison Martin wrote: 'How ridiculous. People need to do some research on these spiders honestly. It's complete scaremongering.'

Duston School's secondary campus site previously closed on November 2, 2017, after 'a number of rats were spotted'.

When contacted by Daily Star, Mr Strickland directed enquiries towards contractor Amey and Northamptonshire County Council "who are responsible for the maintenance and safety of the school site."

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