The Nova Scotia government is opening the door for under-utilized schools to share space during the school day as a way to keep the schools open.

The ground rules for so-called hub schools were released on Monday.

Parents of children in schools threatened with closure because of declining enrolments have pushed for the hub school concept, most recently in the riding of Nova Scotia Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Karen Casey .

"There was no definition of hub schools. There was no criteria both boards and communities were needing some direction and some clarification," she said.

The direction issued Monday recognizes the primary function of a school is for education, but the building can be shared — providing the two uses be kept separate.

The group of eligible partners includes community groups, government departments and agencies, and some local businesses — as long as they pose no risk to students and staff.

It's up to the school boards to evaluate the proposals.

Employees and volunteers will have to provide criminal background and child abuse registry checks.

"They're fair and reasonable," said Halifax Regional School Board chair Gin Yee.

He says the province is responding to declining enrolment.

"This is one way to resolve that issue. If there are community partners that we can partner with, and we can utilize the buildings more effectively, and it doesn't increase our cost as a school board, and the community benefits — I'm for it," he said.

Yee says the Halifax board will start preparing for the introduction of hub schools in September.

With files from Paul Withers