Newington Forest resident Sue Escherich could hardly contain her excitement about the new hope for getting a school in her area.

"People have been calling me all week, saying things like 'democracy really works'," said Escherich.

For the residents of this new Fairfax County subdivision, just off I-95 near Fort Belvoir, a unanimous school board vote last week was a victory won at least partly because of constituent pressure.

When the five-year Capital Improvements Plan for the Fairfax schools was made public just before Christmas, Newington Forest residents went into action, lobbying school board members to include plans for an elementary school for their area.

The whirlwind campaign paid off when the school board reluctantly agreed last week to put a bond referendum before the voters in the spring of 1981.

"I think it's the best we could have hoped for . . . there is no other way to fund the school," says Escherich. "this is the first bond referendum in three years -- which is a pretty long time -- and we think it's got a good chance of passing."

The bond referendum means residents of Newington Forest have just begun their experiment in participatory democracy -- they have 14 months to convince voters across the county that the school is needed.

School board members say that may be difficult, given the school consolidation studies going on in older parts of Fairfax.