On the morning of April 6, a tidal wave swept through Edgecumbe after the Rangitaiki River's stopbanks burst.
Children would have normally been walking to the local primary school, which sits just metres away from the river.
Parents say Edgecumbe Primary School Principal Kahu Walker's decision to close the school that day saved lives.
Mr Walker told Newshub he's still haunted by what may have happened if he hadn't made that call.
"It's something I struggle with to this day - it's probably what I lose the most sleep over.
"The normal rule of thumb is that you stay open at all costs. I thank whoever upstairs - call it divine intervention, I don't know - but there would've been a hugely different outcome, I'm sure, had our children been walking to school."
Mother-of-six Tania Rutland's home was inundated and the family almost all their belongings. She said they only just had enough time to get to safety and she's grateful for Mr Walker's actions.
"If they hadn't cancelled [school], about how many of these kids and my kids and all their friends would've been walking to school."
This week, children returned to school for the first time since the floods.
Fifteen homes are condemned and another 230 are severally damaged.
About a third of the town's population are living in motels or with family and friends in neighbouring towns, so a number of the students have to bus in.
Experts have been brought into the primary and secondary schools to offer extra support to the children over the next fortnight.
Appliances, furniture and rubbish are still piled up along Edgecumbe streets as the clean-up and rebuild continues.
The local council this week outlined a plan to get all 100 uninsured or under-insured homes liveable by Christmas.
An independent review will look into what caused the flooding, with findings expected by July.