Former Ken Karyl school, now church, nearly asbestos-free|[06/07/08]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 7, 2008

It has been a long journey, but Family Life Cathedral, the former Ken Karyl Elementary School, will be asbestos-free by the end of this month.

“This was our vision, and I’m carrying it out,” Betty Tyler, pastor, said of the plan she and her late husband and co-pastor, Max, shared.

Family Life Cathedral, on Ken Karyl Avenue off Mission 66, was born in February 1996 out of a Bible class in the Tylers’ home. Eleven years later, after the building was purchased in May 1997 for $10,251, the church has about 110 members.

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The church’s congregation, through tithing and donations, has raised the money to remove the asbestos from the 46-year-old building. The third and final phase will begin and end this month, said Tyler.

The building’s ceiling and floor tiles contained asbestos, but have been removed.

Asbestos is a fiber used in construction materials for insulation, sound-proofing and fire-proofing. In 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency banned its use because of its harmful health effects. If inhaled, asbestos can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Estimates to remove the asbestos were as much as $90,000, but Tyler said the three-phase project has actually cost a little less than half. The final phase, which will see the removal of ceiling tiles and floor tiles in the east and west wings, is estimated at $16,000. The first phase was completed in December 1997 so the sanctuary and atrium could be opened in what was formerly the cafeteria/auditorium of the school.

Strangers have pitched in to help with the cost, said longtime church member Tomie White.

“There were people who tithed who have never come here,” he said. “That tells us where God is.”

As for the complexity of taking on such a project, Tyler said, it wasn’t difficult.

“We believed this was something God called us to do,” she said. “And, if God led us to do it, it wouldn’t be a struggle.”

Now that the asbestos is on its way out, the church has big plans for the use of what was once classrooms. There is still cosmetic work to be done before it will be complete, but the asbestos removal is a major step.

Plans include space for a Wild Fire center for teens, complete with computers and basketball goals, a dining-conference area and religious education classrooms. Tyler would also like to open a school that caters to teenage boys in grades 8-10.

“Somewhere in there, boys fall through the cracks. We want a school for boys in that age group to retrieve them,” she said.

The family-focused approach is important to the congregation, and Tyler calls the church a “community-based ministry that believes God called us to minister to the heart and mind.”

White agreed. “It isn’t just called family – we are. Our founders groomed us as a family, and we’re carrying on in that same manner.”

Ken Karyl Elementary, which served Marcus Bottom students in grades K-6, was opened in the early-1960s to avoid integration following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, which declared segregation unequal. After integration, Ken Karyl was deemed superfluous and was left empty until Family Life Cathedral resuscitated it in the late-90s.