Administrators at Huntington Beach public schools say they are sensitive to this, and often see students who want to remain with their friends.
Each transfer application is reviewed separately, said Kathy Miller, who was interim assistant superintendent in education services for Huntington Beach Union School District, which includes Edison.
"If students want to come to our school, we try to look at the big picture and try to determine if it's beneficial for the students and the families," Miller said, adding that few are turned away.
Sports also play a large role in decisions to transfer in and out of Estancia. Large schools, such as Edison and Mater Dei, attract elite athletes in some sports such as basketball.
Estancia, which is nearly half the size of Edison, appeals to student-athletes looking for more playing time.
That, combined with a revived football team, is appealing for more and more Mesa Verde kids, says Costa Mesa City Councilman Steve Mensinger, an Estancia football booster. Last season, the Eagles won their first outright league title since 1989.
In the team audio-visual room, which he helped fund, Mensinger points to composite photos from the 1970s and 1980s, when most of the student faces were white.
Students of color are the majority in the more recent images, but more "blonde kids and redheads" are returning, he said.
Mensinger's son Cole, a defensive free safety, attended St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Costa Mesa through eighth grade. The family considered Mater Dei for him, but ultimately chose Estancia, mainly because of its sports opportunities.
Now, Mensinger, a champion of Eagles football, is a strong advocate of the high school and its students — regardless of class or color.