Parents worried that space in Nova Scotia's new pre-primary program for four-year-olds will be gone before they can register have nothing to fear, according to Education Minister Zach Churchill.

If there are more children than available spots, the department will look to create more spaces, the minister says.

The department announced Tuesday 50 centres will offer free pre-primary programs starting in September. Each will accommodate a maximum of 24 children.

Five hundred families have already applied.

Asked by CBC News if the program would be capped at 1,200 children, Churchill responded that the department would make space available for every four-year-old who qualifies. In each location, families must live within the catchment area of the school that is offering the pre-primary program.

Province to explore options if space runs out

If any program is oversubscribed, Churchill said the province will look at other options.

"Then we'll need to work with the school board to identify space," he said. "If there's no space at the school board we'll work with private providers, if there are any in the area. If that's not an option we'll go to community groups to identify space that could be available."

Churchill said the only way child might not be accommodated is if a board is unable to find enough early childhood educators to properly staff a centre, and no other options exist nearby.

"If we do not find the full complement of staff, we will not be able to open up a class. So if that is the case we will be informing parents right away," Churchill said.

Job postings coming soon

At least one school board is already advertising for some of the positions needed to fulfil the Liberal government's promise to create a pre-primary program by the next school year.

The Annapolis Valley Regional School Board posted a job Thursday for a pre-primary facilitator to oversee the program at the board, which is expected to use five classrooms.

"I'm hearing postings will be up by the end of next week in all boards," said Churchill.