BANGOR, Maine — Nearly 90 students enrolled at Mr. Bernard’s School of Hair Fashion’s campuses in Bangor and Lewiston are still waiting for an explanation for the sudden and unexpected closure of their school.
The school’s Bangor and Lewiston campuses both closed abruptly on Monday — the day before classes were to have resumed after a two-week holiday break.
While some students and staff were informed of the closure by telephone Monday, several students indicated that they learned of the closure via Facebook posts.
Messages left Monday and Tuesday at both Mr. Bernard’s sites were not returned, including one to owner Mary Hunt.
Jennifer Burgess, 38, of Bangor was among the students affected by the closure. She said she was given no reason for the closure.
“I was supposed to graduate at the end of February,” Burgess said early Tuesday evening.
Burgess, who began as a part-time student, went full time last fall. She said six classmates were set to graduate this month and that one of them would have graduated this week.
Now, she said, she and other students aren’t sure what the future holds.
“We deserve to know what’s going on and we deserve to finish our careers,” Burgess said.
Burgess said a director and instructors have told students that they might have answers for them by Thursday, when the students are scheduled to collect their equipment and other personal items.
At the time of the closure, Mr. Bernard’s had an enrollment of 88 students — 37 of them in Bangor and another 51 in Lewiston, according to Doug Dunbar, spokesman for Maine’s Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, which oversees the licensing of beauty schools.
The number of employees for the two locations was not immediately available, he said Tuesday.
“To date, the Barbering and Cosmetology Licensing Program here at the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation has not received complaints from students or others regarding Mr. Bernard’s sudden closure,” Dunbar said. “Additionally, a quick review indicates that we have not received complaints about the school in the past.
Dunbar said the administrator of the cosmetology licensing program has been working on the issue since being made aware late Monday afternoon.
“Licensing staff has also communicated with several other cosmetology schools, which have expressed interest in having Mr. Bernard’s students transfer to their location,” he said.
As of Tuesday, neither the Bangor Police Department nor the Maine attorney general’s office had received complaints about the school, representatives from those agencies said.
But the Better Business Bureau has, according to Diane Ellis, an information specialist with the bureau’s Boston office, which handles complaints from Maine.
Ellis said Tuesday that Mr. Bernard’s had been accredited by the bureau since June 2012 but accreditation was revoked on Nov. 25, 2014, because of its failure to respond to complaints in a prompt and professional manner.
Information about the nature of all but one of the complaints was not available Tuesday because the Better Business Bureau keeps only three years’ worth of complaint records at any given time.
The only recent complaint on the Better Business Bureau’s website was submitted on Dec. 3:
“Mr. Bernards School of Hair Fashion Inc. has deducted money from student loans that does not belong to them,” it read. “There is also the issue of instructors and the director not dealing with issues regarding education, cursing at students, suspending students due to requesting information about their education, and also providing false information about loans and moneys owed to students from loan services.
“There are also three family members working in the main office, mother is the director, and two daughters working as hour reporter and financial aid adviser,” the complainant said.
The person lodging the complaint said the school “needs to be investigated and looked into for relations in the main office and where money is going (audit).”
The complaint was closed out after the school failed to respond to a series of notices and requests for resolution went unanswered over a 30-day period, Ellis said.
The complaint was removed from the bureau’s website on Tuesday, when an alert was added the the Mr. Bernard’s entry noting that the business was closed.
According to the school’s website, Mr. Bernard’s offered a 1,500-hour training program for beginning cosmetologists at a cost of $13,966, not including fees for state licensing, and a 1,000-hour course for student instructors at a cost of $7,650, a total that also did not include licensing fees.
The school’s website also said it authorized to provide training under the current GI bill and the state Department of Health and Human Services’ Vocational Rehabilitation and that it was accredited by the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences.
Mr. Bernard’s is not the first school of its kind to suddenly close its doors in Maine.
In June 1997, the Maine State Academy of Hair Design abruptly closed its campuses in Lewiston, Waterville, Portland and Brewer, leaving more than 115 students in the lurch.
That closure was connected in part to the former head’s failure to refund the student loans of 15 former students, according to previously published reports.