With eight weeks to go before the 2010-2011 school year begins, the city is letting principals hire more teachers from outside the school system.

An update to the city’s year-old teacher hiring freeze means that principals are now free to hire people who are licensed to teach earth science, middle school general science, English as a second language for grades 7-12, Chinese, and Latin, even if they aren’t already working in the school system. There are more open positions in these areas than there are teachers whose jobs have been eliminated, according to Department of Education spokeswoman Ann Forte.

Principals were already permitted to look outside the city for special education, speech, and some Spanish bilingual subject teachers. New schools are also allowed to bring on new teachers for up to 40 percent of their hires.

The most recent change suggests that the city might be starting to get a handle on how principals decided to staff up for the coming school year. Principals were required to submit their spending plans last Friday, and some were choosing to “excess” teachers, or eliminate their positions, in order to cut costs. The city is unlikely to lift hiring restrictions in subjects that saw many teachers cut. That’s because those teachers continue to work in the system, so the city would prefer open positions be filled with teachers already on the payroll.

So far the city has not released any details about how principals chose to spend their budgets or how many teachers are being excessed.

The newest exemptions from the freeze are a boon to teacher-hopefuls being trained this summer by Teach for America and the city’s Teaching Fellows program. Both groups assigned all recruits to teach either special education, where restrictions have never been in place for the upcoming school year, or science. Forte said the department had anticipated hiring about 200 new science teachers and saw that there are more open science jobs than there are science teachers without positions.

Chinese and Latin teachers are less in demand, she said, but there are currently no teachers licensed in those subjects in the excess pool.