Runnels was established as a preschool in 1965 by Dr. L.K. Runnels and his late wife, Patricia. The first classes were held in the family's home near the south gates of LSU. With the opening of Runnels, a fresh perspective in early learning and child development was introduced to the Baton Rouge community. Unlike traditional preschools and nursery schools of that era, the Runnels program offered instruction in reading to very young children, which, at that time, was a disputed educational concept. Today, of course, it is a standard early learning practice.
In addition to quality instruction in reading and other academic areas, the Runnels program featured small classes, an individualized approach to education, a nurturing, home-like environment, a caring and dedicated faculty and staff, and a school culture that valued kindness, compassion, acceptance, responsibility, creativity and fun. These values still form the heart of “The Runnels Experience.”
Enrollment increased swiftly and soon the Runnels Preschool required two larger locations: a house on Goodwood Avenue and another on Lee Drive. During the 1970s, elementary grades were added to the program. To accommodate the new classes, the Jefferson Hwy. campus was acquired.
In 1982, the 32-acre S. Harrell’s Ferry Rd. campus was purchased, and the elementary school was moved to that location. The following year, the junior and senior high school was added. The Runnels School system was developed and managed by Founding Headmaster Dr. L. K. Runnels and his wife, Assistant Head of School Gladys Runnels, until their retirement in 2015. Now, grades K-12 are housed on the main campus on S. Harrell’s Ferry Rd. and the Jefferson Hwy. campus is a dedicated preschool.