Questions and Answers
If you have a question about Neighbourhood Learning Centres contact us using the form on the contact page.
What is a Neighbourhood Learning Centre (NLC)?
A Neighbourhood Learning Centre is a welcoming place that supports the unique
needs of its own community. NLCs maximize the use of school facilities for the benefit of local communities. Facilities are used by both the school and the community throughout the calendar year, both during and outside school hours. An array of programs and services can be offered and selected through community consultation, which represent partnerships between schools, school districts and local communities.
Neighbourhood Learning Centres can include many programs and services for all ages, such as child care programs, office space, cultural supports, Aboriginal programs, health clinics, sports programs, seniors’ centres, libraries and family resource centres. Go to the Main Page...
How is a NLC different from a community school?
Community schools are one model of Neighbourhood Learning Centres. Typically, in a community school a coordinator oversees community programs and services for children, youth and families at the school. The school facility is used for a wide variety of purposes after school hours, on weekends and during school breaks throughout the year. Some activities and programs are integrated with regular day-school academic programs, whereas other programs meet a wide range of community needs and interests for all age levels.
NLCs look different in every community. Not every NLC has a coordinator and there are a variety of different models with different forms of management. NLCs encompass a range of models including community schools, community hubs, schools with municipal recreation services and schools. View the NLC Models
Where can I learn more out about NLCs operating in BC?
There are many good examples of NLCs in our province. Read the Success Stories
What are the benefits of NLCs?
NLCs offer a variety of benefits for every potential user group – students, educators, parents, families and residents, government, businesses and foundations.
Sharing unused school space with community groups: When a NLC is created parents and community members become engaged in their neighbourhood school, maybe taking a class or housing a business in the school building. Space that would otherwise be sitting vacant is now used for the benefit of the community.
Building collaborative relationships with program and service providers in the community: NLCs potentially enable students, families and community members to access medical services, such as a community health nurse or a dentist at the school, or if local YM/WCA groups used school facilities to provide fitness classes to students and seniors.
Creating neighbourhoods where young people flourish: Neighbourhoods can affect children by influencing how much access they have to adults who serve as role models and keep watch over the neighbourhood. Neighbourhood Learning Centres allow for greater involvement from committed community members in the care and education of young people.
Can our community have a NLC?
Yes, every community can have a NLC. It is up to you, your local school, your school district and your community to make it happen. Development of a NLC begins with discussing your community’s needs and working together to utilize available school space, during or beyond school hours, to support those needs. The NLC Planning Guide and the NLC Community Engagement Guide illustrate how to work with your school and community to develop a NLC. Learn more...
When are NLCs open?
Every NLC is unique and there are no defined hours for NLCs. The community and school work together with the school district to determine operational needs including hours of operation.
Will becoming a NLC prevent my school from closing?
Not necessarily. Final decisions about school closure are made at the school district level by locally elected boards of education in consultation with the local community. The School Opening and Closure Order (M194/08) directs boards of education to apply a public consultation process when closing schools permanently. It is expected that boards would consider NLC options when considering school closure.
All of the classrooms in our school are full. Can we still open a NLC?
Yes. Consider the use of school space after school hours – evenings, weekends and school vacations. NLCs are designed to be open beyond school hours. It would be valuable to discuss your community’s needs for use of the school as a NLC during these times when space in the school is available.
Is a community facility, such as a closed school that no longer offers K-12 education for students, considered a NLC?
Yes. If the programs and services have been established through a community consultation process, it is considered a NLC.
How can our school become a Neighbourhood Learning Centre?
NLCs develop locally through a collaborative approach that reflects the unique needs and assets of each school and community. The NLC Planning Guide provides some direction in beginning this process. Learn more...
What is the governance structure for NLCs? Is there an oversight board?
Each NLC is unique and, therefore, its governance structure will be unique to the community. Governance structures can range from informal to highly structured arrangements. There are several common NLC models and the type of model often determines the best governance structure. Learn more...
The school and its district will have ideas on how they wish to operate the NLC with the community and its partners. Learn more...
Our school and district staff already have heavy workloads. Who will take on the additional work of operating the NLC?
The school and community will have to work this out when planning to develop a NLC. A NLC is a partnership and all the partners must work together to find solutions to workload issues. Refer to NLC Success Stories and consider speaking with NLC contacts who have met with great success.
Is community consultation a requirement for developing a NLC? If so, how does this process work?
Yes. It is expected that schools will consult with their community to determine what services would meet the needs of both the school and community. Just as each community is unique, the community consultation process will be unique to that community. Learn more...
We have limited time and resources. How can we possibly consult with local government(s) and community groups?
Consider taking advantage of meetings, events and processes already in place and which happen on a regular basis in your community. The time restraints of school administrators, teachers, parents and community members are fully recognized and appreciated. The establishment of a NLC working team is a starting point to help share the leadership, resources and expertise. Learn more...
There are predictions that there will be an increase in student enrolment starting in the next 5‒10 years. How can we account for that trend in the development of our NLC (e.g., in terms of agreements with community organizations, etc.)?
Enrolment projections are just that – predictions of trends – and, therefore, it will always remain a challenge to anticipate or forecast the number of student in the province, in particular, in each school district. School districts would carefully analyze their shorter-term (3‒5 year) projections as well as longer, 10-year enrolment trends when committing to a longer term partnership with other community organizations. It is expected that when a commitment is made to a partner it will be honoured even if enrolment increases and a district would find ways to accommodate the increased enrolments without moving a partner out of school space.
Partners and Programs
How will our school/district/community determine and select organizations to use our school for programs/services?
Decisions on selecting organizations for a NLC are best made from the results of community consultation. Learn more...
Do all NLCs include child care?
Many, but certainly not all NLCs host child care programs. If there is a need for child care in a community, a NLC may be an ideal way of hosting this program, offering a valuable service to families in the community.
Are there priority programs that need to be considered ahead of other programs? For example, could a child care program take precedence over a community sports program?
No. The community and school, through their consultation processes, will determine their unique priority needs.
While I appreciate the importance of developing agreements with our partners, I need assistance to manage this. Who or where can I go to for support?
Invite the assistance of a school district administrator and your partners as they may have experience in this area. Information regarding the development of agreements can be found in the NLC Shared Use Agreement Guide. Learn more...
Will the classrooms housed within a NLC be used after school hours? If so, how can teachers be assured everything in the classroom will remain safe and left as is?
Responsibility for management and operation of the NLC should be explicitly planned for at the outset of NLC development. Learn more about agreements...
I’ve tried to run programs after-hours in our local school but the school often makes the space I’ve reserved unavailable at short notice. How can I offer a program when I can’t be sure that the space I’ve reserved will be available?
Understandably, this can be a frustration for both community partners and the school, and is more likely to occur at the early stages of a partnership. As relationships between the school and community grow, the mutual benefits of a committed partnership become clearer and these challenges are usually worked out. Issues of this kind are best raised early in the negotiation and agreement process. Creative solutions can often be found.
I would like to offer a program at more than one school. Do I need to negotiate with each school individually or can I make one agreement that will be respected by all?
It would be best to start by speaking to your school district. Some school districts manage programs reaching multiple schools under a single agreement, while in other school districts the partnerships are established independently with the individual schools.
Funding and Costs
Is there funding available to help schools start a NLC?
There are two types of NLCs: i) ones involving a Ministry capital funding component and ii) those created without a capital funding component.
NLCs involving a capital funding component reflect Ministry policy that all new school projects and major school expansion projects are to include additional community space, to be planned with community consultation and funded by the Ministry as part of the design and construction process undertaken by school districts for their approved capital projects.
For other NLCs, school districts are encouraged to partner with municipalities and community agencies to leverage funding where possible to allow available school space to be used for alternative community purposes.
How much does it cost to rent space in my local school? How do I reserve it? How are rental fees determined at a NLC?
Rental costs for use of NLC facilities are determined by the local school district. Typically, rental costs and associated details pertaining to the reservation process and use of space are specified in an agreement between the school district and the partner or tenant. The school district typically determines the rental rate. Rates may vary depending on the type of use and the type of renter. For example, non-profit organizations may be offered a lower rate than for-profit businesses. Contact your school district office to find out how to rent space at your school.
Will funds for NLCs be diverted from educational programs?
Funds will not be diverted from educational programs to fund NLCs programming. Rather, NLCs are intended to be self-sustaining.
Who gets the revenue generated from community use?
NLCs are intended to be cost neutral operations; however, if revenues are generated, those revenues remain with the school district.
Who will pay the additional operating costs (custodial time, heat/light, wear and tear, carbon tax) incurred through extended use of the school facility?
Payment of additional operating costs should be detailed in agreements between school districts and partners. Learn more...
Paying support staff over time makes it unaffordable to have my school open extended hours. How else could these costs be covered?
It is important to share the operating costs associated with keeping a school open extended hours among partners. These details should be written into an agreement between the school and partner(s). Learn more...
Management and Operations
Who operates/manages the NLC during school hours? Outside of school hours?
Responsibility for management and operation of the NLC should be explicitly detailed at the outset of NLC development. This responsibility should be negotiated and included in agreements between partners and the school district.
How can we complete our annual school maintenance if we need to have the school available year-round?
This is an important point to discuss with your partners before developing your NLC. Creative thinking around use of space is required. Full closure could perhaps be changed to a series of partial closures throughout the year. Consider calling upon other NLCs to share their solutions to this issue.
Does the school need to have a caretaker or security personnel on site when it is open outside of school hours?
This question needs to be addressed at the school district level as answers will be based on local policies and local union agreements. All boards of education employ unionized support staff and some districts have more than one support staff union. It is important for the board of education and school district staff to provide guidance to those planning a NLC so that the implications of collective agreements are understood and integrated into agreements.
If members of the public are allowed in my school during the school day, how can I know that my child will be safe?
Student safety is the first priority. All schools establish procedures and policies that ensure the safety of children.
Do schools need additional liability insurance if they are open for community use? If so, who pays for that?
Please refer to the Shared Use Agreement Guide
How do I access legal advice when needed? Does our school have to pay for this service?
Connect with your board of education office to determine how to seek legal advice in your school district.
Who is responsible for damages to school equipment or facilities when they are used by community members/groups?
Issues related to damage should be outlined in agreements.