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We photographed four CCPS kindergarteners a decade ago: They’re now Grade 8 grads

And they’re leaving elementary school behind amid a pandemic

Almost a decade ago, a photo I took of four Copper Cliff Public School kindergartners and their parents was published on the front page of Northern Life (’s predecessor, which, as you likely know, ceased publication in March).

Parents Tammi Principi, Debbie MacKinnon, Sean Dempsey and Cindy Chateauvert were classmates at CCPS. 

In September 2010, their kids, Adria Waddell, Lacey MacKinnon, Jennifer Dempsey and Emma Chateauvert were about to start junior kindergarten at CCPS together.

At the time, I spoke to the parents about their memories of attending CCPS — a school I also attended in the 1980s and 1990s — and what it meant to have the next generation also attend the school.

In the blink of an eye, 10 years have passed, and these four little girls aren’t so little anymore. They have just finished Grade 8 — amid a pandemic.

Their parents got ahold of so we could restage the photo, although the grown-ups declined to be in the pic this time.

If you look at the original photo, one of the funny things about it is the stormy scowl on little Lacey MacKinnon’s face — I remember having quite a time trying to get her to smile for my photo, but she just wasn’t having it.

I’m “Auntie Heidi” to a kindergartener myself these days, so in looking at the original picture, I just thought “Yup, seems about right.”

With a giggle, Lacey, who smiled extra bright in my 2020 photo, said she “sort of” remembers that day. “It’s funny to see it now,” she said. “I don’t know why I was in a grumpy mood and had that face.”

Like their parents before them, Adria, Lacey, Jennifer and Emma were friends throughout their time at CCPS. They are all planning to attend Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School in the fall.

Lacey said the best part of attending CCPS, which is and always has been a close-knit school, was “growing up with all of our friends and getting to know each other throughout the years even better and playing sports with everyone.”

She said she’s sad they’re leaving CCPS behind, especially amid a pandemic which saw school move online back in March. 

Graduation was also postponed, although the word is CCPS hopes to have a Grade 8 graduation ceremony this fall.

“We’ve grown up in this school, and to end it without having grad or anything like that, it’s just sad, and it feels like not real, almost,” Lacey said.

Looking past the unusual situation of ending their Grade 8 year amid COVID-19, Jennifer said she is looking forward to starting high school this fall.

“It’s going to be a nice chance to do something different, but we’re still going to have to have each other,” she said. “It’s going to be nice to make new friends, and try new sports, and just being at a different school.”

Jennifer and her two brothers were actually the fourth generation of their family to attend CCPS. 

Her great-grandmother, Grace Moore, attended the school in the 1920s; her grandfather, George Dempsey, attended in the 1940s and 50s; and her father Sean Dempsey attended in the mid-1970s and early 1980s.

Sean said Jennifer’s graduation from CCPS is definitely the end of an era for him — he’s had kids at the school for 23 consecutive years. 

His older son started school there in 1997, and all of his kids’ time there overlapped. Sean has been on the CCPS parent council for two decades.

Copper Cliff Public School, he said, is a “great community school.”

“It’s bittersweet for sure, after watching your last one graduate,” said Sean.

This year’s batch of Grade 8s “missed a lot” due to the pandemic, the parent said.

“They didn’t get a chance to get their final year of track and field, basketball, and of course, the graduation, as well as just the fun days at the end to say goodbye to their teachers,” Sean said.