The next stop for Westerville City Schools transportation department could be Broadway.

The next stop for Westerville City Schools transportation department could be Broadway.

As students headed back to school Aug. 15, members of the transportation staff took to the stage, teaching state-required bus safety lessons in a manner reminiscent of a high-school musical.

School Bus, the Musical: Riding the Bus Will Never Be the Same has been performed with a cast of transportation employees for thousands of students over the first couple of weeks of the Westerville school year.

The transportation staff has worked on the musical, on a volunteer basis, for more than six months, said Chris Winesette, the district's student discipline and safety coordinator.

"We get a monthly email about what other districts are doing, and another district had done it. We watched it, and we thought that was a pretty creative idea," Winesette said. "We thought, 'We've got so many talented people, we could probably do it much better.' We thought we could do something that was much more over the top."

Winesette, who has a background in theater, helped pen the play with bus driver Bonnie Yonek.

The 30-minute play features seven cast members -- Debbie Diller, Wendy Todys, Cindy Russel, Byron Mann, Jack Bope, Shelly Smith and Aleithra Ball -- and safety-themed songs, such as When You're Safe, We Smile.

The set was designed by Scott Weston with help from Otterbein University's Theatre Department.

"Our bus drivers have all volunteered to do this. It's really just a way to get their faces out in the public and get kids comfortable with the bus drivers," Winesette said. "It's been a labor of love that they've volunteered tons of hours to do this."

Winesette said the musical beat last year's safety presentation, which involved taking buses to schools and having the kids sit on them while drivers went over safety information.

"We just had the kids get on, and just gave them, like an airline stewardess does, here is where the emergency exit is," Winesette said. "It was very cut and dried, kind of get them in and get them off. It was just 'This is what we have to do.' "

This year's bus-safety experience has been entirely different, Winesette said. As students file in to see the musical, the play's presenters blast the popular song Call Me Maybe, and socialize with the students and teachers.

"The reaction from kids this year has been overwhelmingly positive," Winesette said.

At the request of teachers, the play's cast and creators are working to record a CD to distribute to the schools, along with a video-recorded version that can be played for students who missed the presentation or on an as-needed basis, Winesette said.

The plan is to grow the program for the next school year, he said.

"This year was a 'let's try and see.' I'm already thinking next year," Winesette said. "Each year, we plan to grow it, and we want to grow it on a larger scale next year. For kids to learn, it's got to be multi-sensory for them.

"This is something we're going to stick with, The response to this has just been phenomenal. We're having a great time."