At the end of kindergarten, Justice Fleming knew three or four other students who had perfect attendance at Huntersville Elementary.
By first grade, there was only one other. By second grade, Fleming stood alone. And he just kept going.
When Fleming crosses the stage with his Hough High classmates next Monday, the Huntersville native will have achieved a rare feat: perfect attendance. He has not missed a single day of school in his public school career – a goal he set for himself at age 7.
“It just sort of happened the first two years or so,” Fleming said. “Then once we realized how easy it was to get, I decided I should try to go for all 13 years.”
It’s unclear just how unusual it is. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools was unable to say just how many students with perfect attendance they average in a given year. South Carolina’s Department of Education keeps a count, and this year recognized only 62 students across the state with the achievement.
Principal Laura Rosenbach said she will have graduated more than 1,000 students in her two years at Hough, and Fleming is the only one with a perfect record.
“That’s pretty amazing,” she said. “It’s extremely rare.”
For Fleming, it took a bit of luck. He seemed to only get sick on the weekends, the normal childhood maladies such as strep throat and fever coming on at about 2 p.m. on Friday.
“We took a lot of trips to urgent care because the pediatrician’s office was closed,” his mother Lori said.
In fourth grade, Fleming came down with the chickenpox. It was winter break.
Family vacations to Oak Island, of course, were planned around the CMS calendar. And the temptations of senior year had to be resisted.
Last month, Fleming’s black Ford Ranger truck was the only vehicle in the Hough senior parking lot. All the rest of his classmates were on a “senior skip day.”
Fleming’s sister, Shelby, is in seventh grade and has perfect attendance so far, as well. She’s got the same goal.
Fleming will attend East Carolina University in the fall. Will the streak continue? Don’t count on it.
“I think I’ve done enough of that,” he said.
About this series
The Observer asked readers and school leaders for suggestions of standout graduates. Today, we continue our series about students who illustrate a range of accomplishments, including some who overcame significant obstacles.