Bus safety rocks at Lakeridge Elementary

Mercer Island School District bus drivers perform a musical play for children, about safely riding a school bus, at Lakeridge Elementary on Friday, Sept. 23. - Rebecca Mar/Staff Photo
Mercer Island School District bus drivers perform a musical play for children, about safely riding a school bus, at Lakeridge Elementary on Friday, Sept. 23.
— image credit: Rebecca Mar/Staff Photo

Holding the attention of kindergarten through fifth-grade kids can be a challenge. But what if an important issue is presented as a musical, with familiar faces in the cast?

Mercer Island School District bus driver Andy Anderson came up with an idea this summer. He wrote and directed a musical play to teach the youngsters some of the rules and safe practices of riding the bus, called “School Bus: The Musical.” All of the cast and band are MISD bus drivers.

“It’s to build bus safety,” Anderson said. “We’re so grateful to the district for allowing us to do this and to Todd Kelsay, the head of transportation.”

Kelsay, who attended the premiere on Friday at Lakeridge Elementary, said there are 40 drivers working for the district.

“A good portion are in the play or have helped with the stagecraft,” he said. “Some of these drivers have musical background and were eager to dust off their instruments.”

The band, called “The Bus Boys,” included Roy Ellingsen on guitar, Dave Irish on keyboards and vocals, Arnie Egglebrecht on saxophone and Rick Haney on drums. The narrator, with a voice as smooth as silk, was Tom Dahlstrom, who worked for KING-FM for 18 years.

The entire school filled the multi-purpose room for the big show. Kelsay said in the past they’ve just talked to the kids about bus safety, but this sounded like more fun.

Principal Fred Rundle, who Kelsay said was very supportive of the concept, introduced the show, asking the kids, “How do we make sure we make it safe when we’re riding the bus?”

From stage left emerged driver William Gerdes, as a potential rider. Sporting a hat with a propeller, one foot in a roller-blade and one in a flipper, he had a skateboard, snowshoes and miscellaneous odds and ends in his backpack as his means of transportation to get him to school.

Anderson and the others in the cast intended to show him how easy it is to take the bus.

One of the musical numbers was set to the tune of teen idol Justin Beiber’s hit “U Smile I Smile,” changed to “When You’re Safe We Smile.” Anderson said he even called Universal Music over the summer, for permission to use the music, just to be safe. Their version was about crossing the street safely, looking both ways, before getting on the bus.

Then what do they do when they get on the bus? The drivers sang and rapped, “Put your backpack on your lap, sit bottom to bottom, back to back,” meaning keeping their bottom to the bottom of the seat, and their back upright to the back of the seat, demonstrating while performing the song.

The singers were Sandy Yollin, Dan Stednick, Anderson, who had some great moves; Pam McCartney, all decked out in a pink sequin hat; and Dana Levy. All five took turns at the lead, and were very entertaining in all three numbers — two of them original songs.

To close the show, the drivers on the Lakeridge routes all came out for an introduction and a bow.

With the first performance a success, they will repeat the show on Oct. 14 at West Mercer Elementary, then at Island Park Elementary, Oct. 25.

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