PORTSMOUTH – Demolition of the former St. Patrick School has begun, making way for a future 30-car parking lot for the nearby Immaculate Conception Church.

Asbestos work started earlier this month, and demolition this week, by Air Quality Experts and Rangeley Enterprises, the contractors selected by the Diocesan Building Committee for the 115-year-old 125 Austin St. school. City building records list the property at 98 Summer St.

A pre-construction meeting was held March 11 with the purpose of mitigating adverse impacts arising from the demolition activities.

Demolition of the rear of the building was taking place Thursday. On an upper floor, old writing on a chalkboard still read, "Let's create a great year together."

Abutters received a notice from the city March 23 warning of potential rodent spread as a result of the ground vibrations caused by the demolition.

City Health Inspector Toni McLellan wrote that while the property has been evaluated and cleared of rodents, the demolition "may drive rodents living on neighboring properties into surrounding areas."

McLellan said other property owners can protect their homes by looking around for holes in siding, foundation or other openings that may allow rodents to enter. She asked people to take photographs if they do see rodents and to call her at (603) 610-4187.

"If rodents are found on your property, the Health Department does not recommend treating for them yourself, particularly if it is not confirmed that where you are treating is actually where rodents are located," McLellan wrote. "Poisons for pests are very dangerous in the environment. Often neighborhood cats or dogs and large birds will come into contact with poisoned rodents and will also be poisoned, or may consume the poison themselves."

McLellan said a certified pest control operator should be consulted if a property owner wishes to have their property further evaluated or treated.