It’s Halloween morning and students are waiting at their pick-ups, decked out in their costumes (or not) when Ms. Frizzle and Liz pull up. This year when the doors crank open, they are headed on an adventure under the sea on a bus turned submarine.
For the third year in a row, School District 19 bus driver and Magic School Bus fan Sonia Cinelli is ready to make the students smile.
“Who is more appropriate for a driver than Mrs. Frizzle I say?” she says. “Truly This is my perfect job and theme. This couldn’t suit my personality more.”
When Cinelli was a casual bus driver, she vowed to become Ms. Frizzle, from the popular show The Magic School Bus, when she became a full time driver. Every Halloween, she would rotate themes inside her bus. That was three years ago.
“Once I had my probation period over with, I took a green lizard from our staff room and made it official that Liz was permanent and the Frizz was here. The lizard has been in my windshield since then,” Cinelli explains.
“Of course I had to ask permission to do the Halloween decorations,” she says. The district was supportive, as long as the exterior of the bus was left alone and that nothing blocked any exits or affected her field of vision.
“I accepted the challenge,” she laughs.
Cinelli is aware of how she can affect the emotional well being of her students.
“They ride the bus to school five days a week,” she says. “I’m the first person they see and the last in their day before the school process is complete. Why wouldn’t I make it enjoyable?”
On Halloween, Cinelli looks forward to creating a space that makes them smile.
“The first year was about the dress. I found the wackiest but most appropriate material to make a dress out of. “It’s my forever dress,” she explains. “My good friend Karyn Molder guided me through the process of dress making from a pattern and viola! The dress was complete.”
Cinelli decorated the bus with a solar system and stars.
“It was fun and simple. I knew they loved it from the moment the door opened and they climbed the stairs onto the bus. It made my day,” she says.
Year two was a trip to the jungle. With her dress ready, Cinelli spent a few days creating and approximately twelve hours assembling her bus.
“I had bugs, vines and monkeys all over the place. There was no one seat or window frame that didn’t have an insect,” she says.
This year, Cinelli tackled an underwater theme. Days of crafting and fifteen hours of assembling the night before Halloween, and Ms. Frizz is ready to ride again, complete with underwater creature covered leggings.
Today, I meet up with her and check out this year’s bus.
Ms. Frizzle greets me with Liz by her side as I take in the bus. Every window has been covered and given submarine window hatches. Fish swim above us, and jellyfish illuminate the back of the bus. Coral sits on the dash, and a special treat for the little ones, a working periscope extends into the walkway.
“I couldn’t have done this good a job without the help of Brad from Begbie Glass, Tammy from Selkirk Graphics and Donna from Battersby Plumbing,” she says.
Cinelli donates time throughout the day to ensure as many children get to have a taste of magic as possible, in addition to the students on her routes, Cinelli takes the bus to several child care services in town, where eager preschoolers are wonder-struck as they wander the bus.
“It’s so much fun,” says Cinelli. “It is actually very soothing and it changes the atmosphere on the bus, it makes everyone smile and feel happy.”
“I love my job.”