Capri Institute students are looking for answers after teachers told students they were closing for 30 days and told them to remove their belongings.

The cosmetology school was founded by Helmut E. Muenster in 1961 and currently has four locations in Brick, Clifton, Kenilworth and Paramus, where the school is headquartered. Parent Michelle Leonard of Toms River told New Jersey 101.5 that her daughter Haley, 20, and students at the Brick location were called into a meeting with teachers on Dec.1.

"They were told to basically to pack their stuff and leave. They were going to close for 30 days," Leonard said. "At that time teachers were stating that they had not received any paychecks for the last few weeks."

Leonard said students were told it was because of COVID-19 protocols but no one is aware of anyone who has tested positive.

The students were also given transcripts without a signature or a seal which makes them unofficial.

"Technically they would still be enrolled into a school program they're not attending which makes it difficult to transfer," Leonard said.

Complaints to the state

The state Division of Consumer Affairs told New Jersey 101.5 it has received 12 consumer complaints against Capri Institute since Dec. 1, 2021.

"All of those are open and under review. The Division is aware that Capri Institute locations appear to be closed at this time," spokesperson Gema DeLasHeras said. "Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file an online complaint with the Division by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 to receive a complaint form by mail."

The school did not respond to New Jersey 101.5's requests at all four locations for more information. Calls will not go through to the number at Capri's headquarters. The school website still advertises an open house at all campuses on Jan. 11 and classes beginning Jan. 3.

Capri student Hayley Leonard drove to the school located in Brick two days after the announcement to get some answers and found no one at the building on Brick Boulevard. There has been no additional communication from the school and phone calls have gone unanswered.

Michelle Leonard said there was no sense of any problems at the Brick location until the meeting on Dec. 1, except for one thing.

"Everything was normal up to that meeting except for a bathroom that hadn't been fixed for weeks. The entire student body was using one bathroom in the facility," Michelle Leonard.

Clipboard signed by Capri Institute students in Brick acknowledging a leave of absence
Clipboard signed by Capri Institute students in Brick acknowledging a leave of absence. Names redacted (Michelle Leonard)
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Jumping to a conclusion?

The lack of communication from the school has created a lot of questions about the future. The Leonards are looking for some official documentation from the school spelling out their plan to solve their current problems. There's also the question of tuition and student loans.

"They used her FAFSA money for this semester. They took her cash, not mine. Over $3,000. And that's just what she put in. There are other students who put a lot more in," Michelle Leonard said. "That's nothing that's coming back to us."

Michelle Leonard said Haley is feeling lost and discouraged by the situation. She graduated with the Class of 2020 at Toms River South which was mostly remote because of the pandemic and did not have a good initial experience with college.

"She took all her money and put it into a program that she wanted to move forward in. She wanted to get an education, learn a trade and open her own business. Right now she's like, 'What's the next step because I'm just sitting here?,'" Michelle Leonard said.

Capri Institute website promoting am open house on Jan. 11.
Capri Institute website promoting am open house on Jan. 11. 12/8/21 (Dan Alexander, Townsquare Media NJ)
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Help from another school?

Paul Mitchell The School Jersey Shore, a cosmetology school also located in Brick, said   on its Facebook page that it has heard from many Capri students about a transfer and offered help.

"We are saddened to hear about the situation that is unfolding regarding the Capri campuses. Students - our hearts go out to you. We have empathy for what you are going through and we are here to see you through it," read their post inviting students to contact them.

A spokeswoman for the school declined to comment to New Jersey 101.5 about Capri.

U.S. Sen. Robert Mendendez, D-NJ, who offered help to Star Career Academy students when that school closed in 2016, once again offered a helping hand.

“Complaints such as this, where a tuition payment is not being refunded by an institution that has allegedly ceased operations, is both troubling and one that we take seriously. Our office stands ready to help individuals in New Jersey impacted by this situation," Menendez told New Jersey 101.5.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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