With masks, sanitization, Capri College navigates teaching students during pandemic

Before layering a makeup brush with colorful shades of eyeshadow, students at Capri College in Dubuque make sure every bristle and area they touch has been properly disinfected.

Although sanitization has always been a part of their trade, it’s now an even more time-consuming and vital part of their everyday routine.

“I hope that we stay that way and (keep) giving the time we have been to do the proper sanitization,” said Megan Gobeli, who is studying cosmetology at Capri. “We use an extra 15 minutes just to make sure we properly sanitize everything.”

In March 2020, Capri College shuttered its four locations in Dubuque, Davenport, Cedar Rapids and Waterloo in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In order to keep classes on schedule, instructors transitioned school to a virtual platform and focused on book work rather than the hands-on part of students’ training, said Josh Miller, school director and massage instructor at Capri’s Dubuque location.

“It was a challenge for sure because we are primarily hands-on in all of our departments,” he said. “Luckily, we shut down for six weeks. If that would have gone longer, then that I think it would have been more problematic. With massage, we did more anatomy and theory, and when we came (back), we were heavier on the hands-on.”

The weeks students were out of the classroom were difficult for Gobeli, 22, who started studying at Capri in Dubuque 1.5 months before to the shutdown, she said.

“It was definitely hard,” she said. “I adjusted pretty quickly, but it definitely didn’t help that I had a job during the pandemic, so I did my job and virtual school. It was nice to come back to school and be able to work hands-on and not do the book work.”

Since the onset of the pandemic, the school has implemented a mask mandate, started taking temperatures of students and clients and changed air filters to improve its ventilation system, said Sara Fiegen-Hull, a controller at Capri.

“The amount of work required to navigate all the changes and to accommodate all the student leaves (for) quarantine when there’s exposure has been a lot,” she said. “We can’t wait for things to get back to normal in this regard.”

Without as many clients coming in the door and with masks preventing students from practicing lip waxing or other services that require removing face coverings, they are missing out on some of their skills trainings, said Meggan Merrick, who works in student services at Capri in Dubuque.

“Especially with prom season coming up, we are hoping to be able to do that, but as of right now, we are not doing that,” she said. “This time of year it is huge.”

Jesi Kriz, 31, started studying cosmetology at Capri in Dubuque in October 2019. She said she had time to practice hair and other skills prior to the pandemic but wished she could have practiced makeup more. Right now, students are only allowed to practice eye makeup.

“I am not that great at makeup, and I was really hoping to learn more about being able to apply makeup and how to do all of the things for applying makeup,” she said. “We had to learn how to work around these masks, and that has been such a big learning curve.”

Miller said he looks forward to life picking back up and seeing the smiles beneath the masks once again in the coming months.

“I look forward to the connection and seeing peoples’ face and seeing peoples’ smiles,” he said. “As much as masks have served a purpose, it blocks from human connection, and above all else, I think that will be welcomed.”